Bungle Bungles / Purnululu 1986

We drove in to the Bungle Bungles after taking the track in to Cattle Creek Yards off the Great Northern Highway. This firm track winds its way through narrow creek beds and quite undulating terrain. I noticed that the wheel tracks in front of us were making small corrugations and it seemed that someone ahead had been making heavy going of this track. Sure enough, at a likely campsite, we found fellow travellers on their first four wheel drive adventure. They had been driving in two wheel drive as they had been unsure on how the front hubs worked. I gave them a quick lesson. We decided to camp there as well for the night. The local resident, a three metre sand goanna, was unimpressed with our intrusion and harassed us until I grabbed a large stick and chased him off. That night a Frogmouth Owl made its calls from just above our tent.

We had heard of the Bungle Bungle weathered rock formations in the Osmand Range, and known as Purnululu by the Gija Aboriginal Group of the the East Kimberley a few years earlier, when an acquaintance flew into this area by helicopter just by chance. It had been know by the indigenous peoples for thousands of years and by white Cattle Farmers for  a 150 years but not in the context of it being of heritage significance. ‘Discovered’ again in the early 1980’s by a film crew flying over the area, moves were afoot to declare it a National Park and we though it best to go and have a look before all sorts of unnecessary restrictions were imposed.

In the morning we made for Piccaninny Creek and after a couple of hours we got to the end of the track. We could have gone further but that would have meant some very hard off roading and with no back up I was not in the mood for it. So we left the vehicle and walked in and, at least 3 kilometres by our reckoning and mindful not to get lost, around these spectacular sandstone domes.

Back at the vehicle more travellers arrived with horror stories of the track in from Turkey Creek. This fellow had a spare fuel tank on the roof rack of his vehicle and the higher centre of gravity almost sent him over. Luckily there was a tree in the right spot and his vehicle just leant against it. We disengaged ourselves from these travellers and made for the track to Turkey Creek. We stopped at the Bungle Bungle Outstation Ruins and then found the entrance to a large gorge off Red Rock Creek. There was a faint track over the millions of river stones and we decided to explore. The track eventually petered out but we kept on driving looking for a good camp site. The gorge was spectacular and the most phenomenal feature is the palm trees which grow a hundred metres up along the sheer cliff face of the rock formations. We found a cave with fertility paintings in it. There were no other signs of footprints to indicate recent visitation. Eventually our progress was stopped by the fact the we could not get out of the vehicle as the gorge became so narrow and we had to reverse out for quite a way.

That evening we camped in this magnificent place where every sound was echoed through the valley. In the early morning the birds woke us with their cheerful calls and it was time to move again.

Leaving Red Rock Gorge

Leaving Red Rock Gorge

Just at the entrance of the gorge a rock formation caught my eye and on closer inspection we found numerous rock paintings which included crocodiles and what looked like stylised platypus.



The track disappeared for a while and we followed a compass bearing along Osmond Creek until we reached Palms Yard as marked on our map. The going was slow and we had to be careful not to stake any more tyres. We passed Winnama Yard and later saw the spot where the top heavy vehicle nearly met with an accident. Not long after that we were on the Texas Downs Station road which was graded and it was a quick run up to Turkey Creek on the Northern Highway.

The Bungle Bungles was declared a National Park on the day that we left the area.

The Far North Kimberley is a fascinating place to visit. It is still very remote and  few travellers have ventured into this area on holidays. In the three weeks of our holiday in the Kimberley we only saw a handful of vehicles.

No doubt, this will change in the future.


Posted in 4x4 Travel Stories.