A Travellerspoint blog

Purnululu

The Bungle Bungle

sunny 33 °C

At Purnululu (The Bungle Bungle) you need to pre-book online for a camp site in one of the two camp areas, Kurrajong or Walardi, but you aren’t allocated a specific site, it is first in gets the best spot. With that in mind we left Kununurra early and arrived at the visitor centre around 12:30 pm to check in and get the tag to display on your dash. Each camp area has a generator and non generator section and after reading other travellers blogs the advice was to choose the generator section as the sites are larger and more spread out. We chose Walardi as it is closer to the southern section of the park where the walks to the Domes, Cathedral Gorge and Piccaninny lookout are located. These walks need to be done early morning as it gets very hot early in this area and also the early morning light is when the domes reveal their true splendour. The camp sites vary in size and shade cover and we did well getting a grassy site with afternoon shade and an open area for the solar panels. Even though we were in a generator area there was only a generator running for 2 hours in the afternoon on 2 out of 3 days and it was quiet and far enough away that you could barely hear it.

In the afternoon of the day we arrived we just relaxed and kept out of the sun as it was very hot. It was the same each afternoon, too hot to be walking so we planned our walks for the early mornings to beat the heat and the crowds. The rest of the day was spent reading in the shade back at camp until late afternoon when we drove out to the Kungkalanayi Lookout to watch the sunset from a high hill with 360 degree views. As the sun got low in the sky the west side of the range out to our east lit up with a red glow providing great photo opportunities. We got talking to a keen photographer who had been to Purnululu a number of times and he was very interesting to talk to, with some great stories about his time here and some good information on chasing the light.

Purnululu is all about the light, the domes in the early morning light are an incredible sight to see but by 9am when we had finished our walk through Cathedral Gorge, Piccaninny Lookout and The Domes the light show was over and the domes looked dull. The same importance of timing the walks applies to Echidna Chasm where the sun needs to be overhead to get the red/orange glow lighting up the entrance to the chasm. This occurs between 10:30 to !!:30 am and is a wonderful sight.

By getting an early start we managed to get Cathedral Gorge to ourselves for 20 minutes after another couple beat us in there but left as we arrived in the cathedral. The walk into Cathedral Gorge is stunning as you walk between the beehive domes and up the gorge with towering walls either side. On our way out of the gorge a tour group was coming in, they are always noisy and would have ruined the silence and peace in the cathedral.
Next we walked to the Piccaninny Lookout which takes you up the stony Piccaninny Creek then through more of the domes to a high lookout with sweeping views over the treed plain below with more domes in the distance. Again we had this amazing view all to ourselves while we sat and had some morning tea in the shade. We were back at the car by 9am passing lots more hikers on the way. That afternoon we rested and kept out of the heat which seems to be a lot more intense here.

Another early start saw us drive to the northern part of the park, which is around 40km from camp, to tackle the Mini Palms Walk. This walk takes you up a creek bed into a steep gorge lined with livistonia palms, soaring cliffs and large rocks to climb over and around. At the end there are stairs up to viewing platforms which look back into the gorge from a high vantage point. The gorge ends at a natural amphitheatre with very high cliffs opening to a narrow band of sunlight. This was a wonderful walk with interesting scenery and no other people until we had almost exited the gorge. Highly recommended.

After walking back to the car we drove another 4km to the car park for the Echidna Chasm walk which again follows a rocky creek bed into a gorge lined with livistonia palms. The gorge gets more narrow as you walk along until you come to the entrance to the chasm where you walk into a narrow passage with vertical walls reaching up to the sky. The chasm then expands into a chamber before continuing around a corner into a very narrow section leading to some boulders which at first look to be as far as you can go. Lots of people stop here and turn back not realising that you can climb up and around the rocks and proceed further to a couple of sets of stairs which take you up to the end of the chasm.

When the sun is directly over the chasm the walls at the entrance to the chasm light up in yellow then orange then red light creating an amazing sight. We were a bit early into the chasm so explored its length while nobody was around then sat and waited in the chamber till 11.00am when we went back to the entrance area to view and photograph the light show. On the way to Echidna Chasm is a slight detour off the track to Osmand Lookout which gives great elevated views of the lush valley and escarpments in this northern section of the park, well worth a look.

The road into the park is 53km of dirt from the Northern Highway to the visitor centre. The road is very scenic with a number of shallow water crossings and lots of twists and turns and ups and downs which make it a great 4wd track to drive. The road was in great condition when we drove it and it took about 1.5 hours to reach the visitor centre. Purnululu was absolutely incredible and the photos won’t do it justice, way better than anticipated and a must see for all Australians. This was easily the highlight of the Kimberley for us and a place that will stay in the mind and heart forever, a place like no other, absolutely incredible.

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Posted by OzJourney 03:26 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Kununurra

Wild and Wet

sunny 32 °C

Kununurra was a town we needed to get to urgently as we had run out of most supplies having spent nearly 4 weeks on the Gibb with very little available along the way. It was a fairly short but picturesque 100km drive to Kununurra from El Questro, crossing over the Lake Kununurra diversion dam on our way into town. Before setting up camp at the Kimberleyland Caravan Park we needed to find a car wash and remove a month’s worth of dust from both car and camper. We had been recommended this caravan park by a number of fellow travellers and their advice was spot on, this was a great caravan park. We booked in for 3 nights and set up on an unpowered grassy site right beside Lake Kununurra with a water view that was great to watch the sun set over the lake. The park doesn’t allow generators (yay) or dogs, has a pool, great amenities and is walking distance to the town centre. The cost was $40 a night.

The rest of the day was spent food shopping, getting fuel, organising a car service and tyre rotation, and lots of other little jobs that needed doing while in town. Next day we had booked a boat tour with Triple J Tours which takes you by bus to Lake Argyle stopping at the relocated Durack Homestead and viewing the lake and dam wall with lots of commentary along the way. You then board a large fast boat which takes you down the 55km of the Ord River to Lake Kununurra stopping for afternoon tea at a riverside location. This trip came highly recommended from previous trip research and by fellow travellers and lived up to its reputation and then some. The scenery along the river is breathtakingly beautiful, from freshwater crocodiles basking on rocks, wonderful bird life, gorges, wetlands and a very informative boat driver who went to great lengths to point out wildlife and explain the Lake Argyle-Ord River Scheme as you went along. It finishes with sunset over Lake Kununurra and this cruise is one of the highlights of our big lap so far.

On our final day in Kununurra the morning was lost while waiting for the car to be serviced. In the afternoon we visited the Sandalwood Factory to get Deb a present for her birthday coming up in a couple of weeks, The Hoochery where we sampled a selection of their rums, Kimberley Ornamental Stonecraft which had wonderful rock sculptures made from local zebra rock and great mango smoothies. We also checked out Ivanhoe Crossing which is closed to traffic as the water was deep and flowing very fast over it, and apparently the barramundi fishing is good there at the moment but we didn’t have time to try our luck. At a couple of farm gate stalls we picked up some excellent bananas and papaya very cheaply. On our way back to camp we visited the Mirima National Park, which is right in town, and climbed up Kelly’s Knob lookout which gives great views over the town of Kununurra. We also checked out the Zebra Rock Gallery and drove out to Molly’s Springs to walk the short distance to the waterfall where you can swim. The Ord Co-op on the Weaber Plains Road just out of town has fuel 12 cents a litre cheaper than in town, we paid $1.29 a litre for diesel.

Kununurra is a great town with lots to do and with hindsight we would have stayed at least another day if we hadn’t already booked a camp site in Purnululu National Park. We never made it up to Wyndham and the many interesting places to see around there so that will have to wait for another trip.

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Posted by OzJourney 19:12 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Gibb River Road Part 5

El Questro

sunny 32 °C

We didn’t have far to travel from Home Valley to El Questro but it did involve crossing the widest of the crossings on the Gibb, the Pentacost River. We were looking forward to a challenging crossing after being disappointed in the ankle deep Durack River crossing but it wasn’t to be, the water level was quite low and we could have made it across in 2wd easily. Anyway the scenery was beautiful and the drive through the ranges to El Questro was nice. The 16km road from the Gibb to El Questro central was in great condition with a few shallow water crossings but it was very dusty.

We decided to stay at the Black Cockatoo campground in the unpowered section rather than the private sites due to its proximity to top class amenities and access to the great facilities provided here. The campground is down by the river with lots of shade and good size sites which you choose yourself. There are fire pits close to all sites which we made use of and we found the campground quiet at night and good for a swim in the river. On the Friday and Saturday nights they had live music at the Swingin Arm Bar which is outdoors with a firepit in the middle and a great atmosphere. Chris Matthews was playing both nights and he put on a great show which we really enjoyed and so did the crowd. We hadn’t heard of him before but he was a fantastic guitarist with a great voice and played a mixture of his own songs along with some great covers.

The four days we stayed here were very busy as there is so much to do and see at El Questro. The first afternoon we decided to walk the El Questro Gorge as it is shaded so the afternoon heat isn’t a factor. There is a fairly deep water crossing on the track into the gorge and when we got to it there were quite a few 4wds pulled over waiting to see someone else go through first. The bottom was rocky so no trouble getting through as the crowd looked on. The walk up the gorge to the halfway pool is over rocks and crosses the creek many times. The rainforest on the sides and overhead make the walk very scenic and the creek is crystal clear. At the halfway pool there is a large boulder blocking the narrow gorge and creating a small waterfall with a deep pool to swim in. The water was beautifully refreshing and we took some time to have a swim and take in the beautiful surroundings.

To continue the walk to the falls at the end of the gorge you have to climb up and over the boulder. Deb decided not to continue on to the falls as the next section involves lots of climbing and traversing cliff faces so I held my backpack containing cameras, clothes and boots over my head and waded into the pool up to my neck and then had to push the pack up onto a ledge and wedge myself between the boulder and the gorge wall to climb up the slippery wall. The walk from then on was more like a climb over large boulders and around ledges to eventually arrive at a very dark narrow gorge with a beautiful waterfall plunging down into a deep pool. At this stage I was hot and was going in for a swim expecting the water to be freezing as no sunlight could reach the pool, but found the water quite nice. The walk back was all downhill so not as hard as coming up and it was back to camp for a rest.

Next day we left camp early to tackle Zebedee Springs and Amalia Gorge before the tourist buses arrive and ruin any peace and quiet at these places. Arriving at Zebedee Springs at 7:15am (they are open from 7am to noon) we were surprised to find a tourist group already there and taking most of the pools so we climbed up the pools to the top and found an empty pool to climb into. The pools higher up are the warmest so we did well to snag that one and enjoyed lying in the clear warm flowing water under a canopy of rainforest. About 10 minutes later a completely naked young German female backpacker and girlfriend decide to jump into the pool with us making Deb more than a little annoyed.

The walk in to Amalia Gorge was over rocks most of the way and involved some climbing around cliffs and up and down vertical walls with natural rock steps. The gorge was fairly large and a high waterfall was falling into a deep wide pool which looked great for a swim after a hot walk even though it wasn’t 9.00am yet. The water felt cold when testing with the feet but after diving in head first the shock from the freezing water took the breath away and resulted in a quick exit before hypothermia set in. This was a beautiful spot and we had it to ourselves for about 20 minutes before another couple arrived and who managed to get lost on the way in. In the afternoon we drove out to Saddleback Ridge lookout and Branko’s lookout. Both gave spectacular views of the surrounding ranges, valleys and rivers and involved steep climbs up winding 4wd tracks with hairpin bends that required low range. To get to Branko’s Lookout you have to negotiate a very long rocky shallow river crossing which needs good clearance under your vehicle to avoid damage.

On our third day we left camp early to drive out to Emma Gorge to try to beat the crowd. The walk was again over rocky ground following the creek, but not overly strenuous. The reward at the end was a magnificent gorge with a very high waterfall falling into a large pool. There was greenery clinging to the gorge walls making the overall view stunningly beautiful. Doing these gorge walks early really pays off in more than one way. First of all the walk is in the cooler part of the day and secondly you avoid the crowds and get these places to yourself for a while. As we got to the falls another couple was just leaving and we had it all to ourselves for 15 minutes or so which is very special in beautiful places like this.

We had read that there was a hot spring here in the main pool to the right of the falls so venturing into the water on the very right you could feel warmer water on top of very cold water, so further exploring revealed a hot spring coming out of the rock wall in behind a large boulder where if you climbed up a little you could sit in a pool of lovely warm water. After the hot spa some more visitors arrived and we headed back to the car to find I had left the headlights on and the main battery was flat. Luckily we have a dual battery setup so I could run some jumper leads between them and start the car. We then spent the afternoon back at camp down by the river on the nice green grass reading and swimming in the waterhole.
On our last day we took a drive out to Explosion Gorge and walked down to the gorge where there was a boat moored that can he hired. There is no swimming here as this is croc country but the gorge is worth seeing and again we had it all to ourselves. We then checked out Chamberlain Gorge and the jetty where you can see the homestead, where the rich and famous stay, from a distance. Pigeon Hole lookout was our next stop and this was our favourite lookout. The views from here were amazing with views of the rivers either side of the ridge and an easier drive than the either Saddleback Ridge or Branko’s.

El Questro was a great finale to the Gibb River Road and with so much to see and do you need at least 4 days here to make the most of it. We loved the walks, the 4wd tracks, the lookouts, the swimming, the campground and the live music and highly recommend it if traveling the Gibb. After nearly 4 weeks on the Gibb this ends our Gibb River Road journey and what a journey it has been. The scenery, the 4wding, the beautiful gorges and great swimming, and the great people we have met along the way all make it an experience we will never forget. The Kimberley has a way of drawing you into its magic and leaving you wanting more. The Gibb may be finished but we still have some more of the Kimberley to see and one thing is for sure, we will back to this remote, special part of Australia to revisit our favourite places and to explore the many more places we didn’t see.

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Posted by OzJourney 19:05 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Gibb River Road Part 4

Home Valley Station

sunny 30 °C

The campground at Drysdale River Station is large with trees scattered throughout for shade and was a nice place to spend the night before pushing on to Home Valley Station. The buffet dinner was a bit of a letdown as we expected to just help ourselves to the buffet but instead you presented your plate and were asked which dishes you would like and were served one item of each, and there wasn’t a big selection and no dessert unless you paid extra. Anyway the food we did get was alright but not worth the $38 each.

The Kalumbaru road from Drysdale to the Gibb was badly corrugated but once back on the Gibb the road was good until 40km out from Home Valley where we met the grader which was grading eastwards toward Home Valley. The yet to be graded 40km was badly corrugated but not as bad as the Kalumbaru road. We got to Home Valley mid morning and chose a camp site down by the Pentacost River at their riverside campground. This campground was one of the best we have camped at with spectacular views of the Cockburn Ranges across the river and a large open area with trees where there was plenty of room to spread out. There were only a handful of campers here during our 3 night stay compared to the packed in sardines camped back at the homestead. There are hot showers, picnic shelters with tables, drinking water taps, new amenities block and you can have fires.

The river here is tidal and there is a huge variation in the height of the river between tides. I tried my luck fishing here to open my barramundi account but unfortunately missed out, only managing a hit on the lure but no hook up. There were plenty of barramundi rising to the surface to smash the poddy mullet that were thick here but they were not really hungry, just being aggressive. A couple of the station’s fishing guides were down at the river catching poddy mullet for bait in a cast net and they said that the water temperature had dropped a week ago and the fish had stopped taking lures. Previous to that campers were catching metre long barra from the same location I was fishing at, should have been here last week they said.

Sunsets were magic here with the setting sun lighting up the Cockburn Ranges across the river with a red glow. Our days here were mainly spent relaxing, fishing, lying by the pool back at the homestead and doing a couple of walks. We booked for dinner at the Dusty Bar & Grill when we checked in for the last night of our stay and when we turned up for dinner they put us outside of the dining area on a picnic table. When we questioned this the answer was that tour groups and in house guests have preference over campers even though we had booked two days earlier and no mention was made of this. We were not impressed and neither were some other couples who were given the same treatment. After ordering our meal we were then asked if we wanted to move inside, it seems that they wait to see if any VIP’s turn up for dinner and as most tables were empty they then allowed us and some others to sit in the dining area as we should have been all along.

We ordered barramundi which came as one piece of fish on some mashed potato and that was it, no vegies, no salad and more of an entree size which was very disappointing. What we got was nice but wouldn’t feed a child and at $38 was a rip off. There was a guy playing guitar and trying to sing but was pathetic so we went out into the beer garden and watched a disappointing Geelong get beaten by West Coast Eagles on the big screen.
Home Valley was a great place to stay but would have been totally different if camping at the homestead. The riverside camp is the prize here, great views, peaceful, friendly campers and we even spotted a large croc basking in the sun on the opposite riverbank one afternoon.

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Posted by OzJourney 19:01 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Kalumbaru

Honeymoon Beach

sunny 32 °C

We left King Edward River campground early anticipating a tough drive to Kalumbaru but we were in luck, the first 45km of the road north had just been graded and the road was a pleasure to drive on. We met the grader which was working its way north and even the section yet to be graded was good with very few corrugations and a few shallow creek crossings. The last 20km into Kalumbaru was slow going with rocky sections and dips but not a problem at all. Even towing an off road caravan through here wouldn’t have been a problem, and there were quite a few at our final destination at Honeymoon Beach. This half of the Kalumbaru road has wonderful scenery to enjoy, dingoes, wild horses, cows and was worth the drive just for that alone.

On arrival in Kalumbaru we refueled at $2.57 a litre for diesel and paid for our permit to enter the area which was $50. The community store sells most essentials including a range of fresh fruit and vegies so we stocked up and headed out to Honeymoon Beach which is another 45 minute drive north on a fairly good road. The cost to stay here was $15pp/n and there are two main camp areas, one above the beach and one right down on the beach, we camped on the beach. You can also drive around the back of the beach and camp above the beach further away from the main areas but there are no amenities down there. The amenities were the worst we have ever seen, there are cold water showers and flushing toilets but they look like they have never been cleaned. This is a real pity as the setting is beautiful with a sandy beach enclosed by a bay which is perfect for launching a tinny.

Unfortunately as inviting as the water looks you take a huge risk if you swim here due to saltwater crocodiles which inhabit the area. We didn’t see any signs of them in the bay but other campers spotted one in the next bay around. I tried fishing here off the beach but had no success and neither did the other land based anglers camped here. However if you have a boat you can expect to catch plenty of fish. The sunrises and sunsets here were amazing and if you just want to relax, lie on the beach and not do much it is probably worth the trip.

One day we took a drive down to McGowans Island which has just reopened after being closed for a while. There are new managers here who greeted us warmly and welcomed us to take a look around and go for a fish off the rocks. There are new amenities here with drinking water available, and the cost was $20pp/n. The beach at Honeymoon Bay was nicer than here but it still looked like a nice place to stop for a few days.
What a difference a week makes to the roads up here. The Kalumbaru road from King Edward River turnoff to Drysdale River Station was great on the way up and now a week later it is badly corrugated, although nowhere near as bad as the Mitchell Falls road. It took us 4.5 hours to reach Drysdale River Station where we stopped for one of their famous burgers for lunch and decided we had done enough driving for the day so booked a campsite and a buffet dinner and relaxed before an early start next morning heading for Home Valley Station.

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Posted by OzJourney 05:56 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

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