Bungle Bungles, Wyndham and El Questro Week 17

Wednesday, Aug 07, 2013 at 16:05

Member-Heather MG NSW

Bungle Bungles
Monday July 29th.
I’m writing tonight from a 24 hour rest area about 7 kms south of the Bungle Bungles and the caravan park nearby where we are booked in to a powered site from tomorrow for two nights. There are quite a few people here although only one van near us and even they are probably at least three sites away compared to a caravan park, so we feel pretty lucky.
We were here mid-morning as we only had to travel from near Halls Creek so I guess anyone much who stayed last night had moved on by then and we were able to take the place of one of them. Although there is a fireplace and a wood barbeque close, we didn’t use either as, until the sun disappeared, it was a very hot afternoon. The generator was put to use and ran the air conditioner from 1pm until almost 4.30 and it was good to have it, although the noise wasn’t!

The two toilets are old long drops but ok especially considering the amount of use they must get. Rubbish bins are also provided as are tables and seats and it’s a big area with lots of space. We decided to stay here as the one just outside the entrance to the Bungles will probably be busy with vans left overnight while the owners drive into the Park for a look.
Tuesday July 30th.
With only a short distance to travel today, it was a very leisurely pack up. John decided to change the rear tyre on the passenger side of the van as it has been losing pressure slowly for some time. It wasn’t difficult to spot the culprit, a tech. screw, so we will have it repaired in the next place we stay, probably Wyndham.
On arrival in the park, despite the early time, we were shown to our site and soon had the power connected and the air conditioner running. There appears to be very few sites with power and whilst it is limited, it does run an air conditioner and the usual other 240 v appliances, provided the microwave is not used at the same time. To avoid tripping the switch, I am also not running the coffee maker or the hot water while we have it turned on.
It was another very hot day and John set up the shadecloth walls to try to protect us a little, working up a big sweat in the process. He decided a beer was needed to prevent dehydration, although it was probably only 10.30, but was persuaded to drink a big glass of cold water first!
The caravan park is somewhat rustic, however having already stayed in a number of Station van parks we have come to expect this. It’s a bare and dusty red surface although we are a bit lucky, and have partial shade and privacy from a tree beside the van. Amenities are prefab and mobile, on two trailers, off white boxes which contain 4 ensuite bathrooms with very basic facilities. In the heat of the day, these are like saunas! Powered sites, in big demand, are $45 per night while unpowered sites are $35, and I think vans can be left here in a separate part of the park for a fee while owners spend a night or more camping in the National Park. It might be a more secure place to leave it than on the highway in a rest area.
The small helicopters used for flights took off and landed at regular intervals throughout the day and are a very popular method of viewing the park, and provide a different view again to the fixed wing flight or driving in, as they fly at a lower altitude, between the landforms almost.
We didn’t do all that much for the rest of the day, taking advantage of a cool interior of the van, although later in the day we met up with a couple we had met in Fitzroy Crossing and ended up sitting and yarning with them until well after dark.
Wednesday July 31st.
Our tour was told to meet outside the Office around 7.45 and we were surprised when the bus pulled up and there were only 5 of us. Our young driver, Matt, who was to also be our pilot, checked our names (I was marked down as Eva!) and we were soon on our way to the runway for the flight which would take us over the Bungle Bungles and then land at the airstrip there. The small Cesna, which seated 7, including pilot, took a while to warm up but before long we were taxiing up the dirt runway and then in the air.
It was so interesting to look down on the deep gorges,ranges and beehive or dome shaped landforms for which this place is famous, and so different from any other places we have flown over. And our headphones allowed us to hear a really informative commentary about the Park and the Stations surrounding it from the pilot. Not only was he full of interesting facts, Matt was also very calm, obviously experienced and both the take off and landing were very smooth, given the runway surfaces.

We landed within the park and were surprised to discover that there were only 4 of us to continue the tour, as the other passenger was returning to the van park. We were introduced to our guide, Glen, and directed to the waiting 4WD bus where our morning tea, fruit juices, fruit cake and biscuits, was laid out for us to enjoy before we commenced the drive. We were given a running commentary on the geological and other features of the Park while we travelled to Cathedral Gorge, in the southern part, along bumpy and dusty roads.
I discovered that taking photographs out of the side windows of the moving bus, was not a very satisfactory method, with unexpected movement and reflections off the glass being major problems.
We were soon travelling amongst the beehives and then walking amongst the striped red and charcoal grey domes, their colours contrasting against the intense blue sky above, and the dry, straw coloured grasses below. It was a hot walk, although easy grade and only two kms return, following the floor of the gorge to the ‘Cathedral’ at the end where a curved sheer red rock surface soars upwards and where, in the wet season, water must bucket down in torrents. The pool of water which remains this late into the dry season is quite stagnant and I would think shallow. It is impossible to capture the huge dimensions of this place even when figures, which appear like ants, are included in the shots. But it is a very impressive sight, and it didn’t stop me from trying!
Back at the bus, we were encouraged to refill our water bottles from the insulated container as it was very hot out there. And then we were back on the bus for the journey to the Northern end of the Park. On our way to Echidna Chasm, we called into the Camp where tourists who stay overnight are brought, and we lunched, sitting on a big undercover deck with views of the range, on ham, cheese and salad wraps which we assembled ourselves and ate with a choice of drinks – tea, coffee or juice or water. Our tour companions, a couple from Perth who were younger than us, were friendly and interesting to yarn with too.
The camp is solar powered and has a great kitchen area also a fabulous building with 4 very swish modern ensuite bathrooms with flush toilets, showers and hot and cold running water. It is perfectly suited to the climate, built off the ground and with a space between walls and ceiling to allow air flow, and was so cool inside. Whenever I see such a beautiful building I fantasise about us building ourselves a simple home, designed with the climate paramount, to blend with the environment and which is totally self-sufficient with solar power, tank water, recycled water and composting toilet….surrounded by natural bush! Haha…I don’t want much! Maybe when we win the lottery, as John promises me every week and has done for over 40 years….
Anyway, I digress….
Guests are housed in tents and it would be a fantastic way to experience the Bungles…wish we had known about it, as to stay out here overnight would have been wonderful.
We had plenty of time to sit and talk to the other couple on the tour, who by now we were starting to feel we knew, and then we were back on the bus for the journey into Echidna Chasm. The car park there was very busy with a mix of travellers in tour buses and private vehicles, but is well set up with a number of toilets and shaded undercover places to escape the heat.
With water bottles re filled yet again, we set off into the Chasm, another walk of approximately 2 kms return. The first part was very hot, unshaded, but as we continued further into the palm lined chasm, it became cooler and more protected as the space between the rock walls narrows. Insome places it is barely wide enough for a person to scramble through and it’s quite a sight to look up hundreds of metes and glimpse the sky far above. The low lighting, and the dramatic contrast between light and shadow also makes photographing very difficult, but I kept taking shots all the way up and back and hoped I might get a few worth keeping. I am not particularly happy with any really but they give some feeling of what it was like in there and I did the best I could!
On our way back to the car park, we detoured off the main track for the short walk to a lookout and then returned to the welcome shade, to wait to board our bus for the return journey to the Caravan Park. This was a different vehicle to the one just four of us had shared all day, and it was full! Because we were newbies, we were lowest in the pecking order and waited to board last, so of course the only seats vacant were on the back seat! It was a very rough and bumpy ride, impossible to take any photographs, and pretty uncomfortable! How glad we were that we had not done it twice!
On our arrival at the van park, we were surprised to be handed tickets entitling us to have the two course dinner so at 6pm we arrived at the large communal dining area near the fire pit, and met some interesting new people to swap stories with around the table while we ate the meal of pea and ham soup and damper, followed by beef curry and rice. This time it was a young Irish couple now living and working in Perth, and a retired English couple living in Queensland, a former Doctor of some note I would think with very posh accents and seemingly with incomprehensibly huge bank balances! It was great to talk with them and we were the last to leave….at 7.30pm!
For us it was quite a late night as I had hundreds of photos to upload, view and then try to edit, and by the time we went to bed it was after 10pm.
If you are looking for a value for money day tour of the Bungles then I thoroughly recommend doing what we did (the BB3 Fly in Drive out at around $500 per person). It was a well organised very full day and ran without a hiccup, with friendly guides and two different views of the place. Ring the Bungles Bungles van park or email them for details.
Thursday August 1st.
Although today our destination was Wyndham, we didn’t rush our pack up and by the time we left the Bungles Van park around 8.30, it looked almost deserted. The drive north up the Great Northern Highway was just so interesting as it hugs ranges so typically Kimberleywell ,they were to me. I didn’t take photos and just sat and enjoyed it all.
We pulled in at Doon Doon Roadhouse and John had to be persuaded to buy enough diesel to get us to Wyndham, as the price was $2.17 per litre and it had to be paid for before filling the tank. He bought $40 and we felt like asking the owner whether he wondered why he didn’t sell much! The campground/van park had a sign saying it was closed for maintenance, worth noting if you are travelling this road and were planning to use it to stay in.
It was around midday when we reached the Wyndham and located the van park. There were three sites suitable for us and the friendly, well spoken, young woman showed me around and pointed out various points of interest on the map when I paid for our two night stay. ($30 per night powered for two). The park has lots of big shady trees but unfortunately the shaded sites were mostly occupied, so we parked the van and put on the air con as it was at least 33 degrees and felt very warm after sitting inside the cool interior of the car all morning. While John set up the van, I put on the washing and checked out the amenities which are quite modern and clean. The pool looked inviting and I have promised myself that I will test it before we leave, provided no one screams when I put on the swimmers!
We lunched quickly and once the washing was on the lines, we had a drive around to locate the jetty (possible fishing spot), a new impressive structure with a stark white wheel chair friendly ramp, and then took a drive to the Five Rivers Lookout high above the town. Up there we met our tour companions of yesterday and had a lengthy catch up before wandering around and taking photos, also chatting to other tourists up there for a look.
On our way back to the van, we shopped in the only Supermarket in town, a well stocked building. It was no use worrying about the prices so we just loaded our trolley with the basics to keep us going until we eventually reach Kununurra in maybe a week, and my three not full bags cost around $180. I don’t know how the locals afford to shop there but I guess they have to, and we were happy to support this local business. It makes us remember how lucky we are to live on the heavily populated East Coast! We again met Roz (from yesterday’s tour of the Bungles) and I am determined that it we see her again, I will give her our phone and email details so that they can stay if they ever visit the east. They are such friendly lovely people.

The remainder of our day flew, with chores, phone calls and other mundane activities. I baked us a pizza dinner and after the gas oven cooled, we turned off the air con and opened all the windows. Thankfully the nights are cool enough to sleep without running it all night, although we will if we have to, on the sleep setting.
Friday August 2nd.
A morning of driving and sightseeing, along what we thought was very rough King River Road where we intended visiting Diggers Rest Station to see whether it would be a good place to base ourselves for a few days while we fished and explored the area. The tyres were deflated once again and we thundered along the road, dodging sharp rocks and bouncing over the roughest stony places. When we reached the turn off to the Moochalabra Dam (Wyndham’s water supply) and the aboriginal art site we decided we had come far enough but I am so glad we visited the rock overhang and were able to view the ancient paintings. We also drove to the dam viewing area.
Before we drove out of the town I had John photograph me pretending to hold up the huge coloured and spotted cement croc which sits beside the road near the PO/Newsagency on the southern end of town! When I put it on FB my son was quick to comment ‘reptile v’s reptile’. He is a cruel man!
We did glimpse water in a meandering tidal channel where the water level was too low to fish, and there were metres of exposed very wet deep mud. John found out how sticky it was when he stepped on the very top part and one of his hiking boots disappeared, sucked down in the glue like chocolate stuff! We also pulled off the road closer to Wyndham and drove down a rough track with a view to a fishing place but it was the wrong time of the day. The water in the narrow channel was too shallow, so we drove back out to the bitumen, the tyres were inflated once again and we drove south to have a look at the Grotto. At this ‘natural amphitheatre,’ a gorge, in the wet season a waterfall feeds a deep pool at the base and there are 140 steps down where the locals swim. At this time of the year, the water looked stagnant although we could hear dripping water seeping out of the rocks above. There were lots of birds including rainbow bee eaters, their plumage a flash of brilliant colours. Boabs clung onto the rocky walls in seemingly impossible places and there were also bauhinia trees with bare limbs and small red flowers dotted here and there.
After walking to the base and around the top, we returned to the air conditioned cool of the car for the scenic drive back between the rocky ranges. John pulled over at the lookout/camera sign and I took a couple of photos and we drove off the road about 8 kms to have a look at the caravan park at Parrys Creek Farm where there is a lovely campground.
The fuel in Wyndham is advertised as being ‘the cheapest in the Kimberley’ and we topped up twice with diesel, also filled the container with fuel for the generator as we are heading for El Questro for a few days tomorrow and want to be able to use it there during the heat of the day, if necessary, to keep cool.
During the afternoon we phoned ahead to book a site in Kununurra for next week, also tried to book a secluded river site at El Questro to be told they don’t allow vans there….bugger! There were phone calls made to family, emails, and for John a marathon session playing games! Water tanks were topped up as well. I wanted to try fishing from the jetty but for some reason John decided it would be a waste of time so was overruled!
After dinner (stir fry of satay vegetables, noodles and chicken breast) we turned off the air con and opened windows but it was a warmer evening than the previous one. Overnight it cooled and was again pleasant enough to sleep with light cotton blanket but I was thankful once again for the fan and the cool air it moved around. We have been leaving all the windows and the door open to maximise air flow overnight too.
Saturday August 3rd.
This morning we packed up and drove the ninety something kms to El Questro Station campground.
I really enjoyed the scenery as the ranges, so iconically ‘Kimberley,’ reared from the flat plains. John was happy to pull over for to take photographs although for most of the drive I was content to just drink it all in. And, until we turned into the station road, it was sealed all the way which was pretty pleasant too. From the turn there was 17kms of dusty dirt road, the first part in great shape, perhaps as encouragement to continue, because for us, after this, it got rougher and John decided to deflate the tyres on the Pajero. With the next few days driving on the roads to various walks and points of interest, it was a wise decision we feel, as it did feel more comfortable for the remaining few kms.
Close to the ‘Town’, there were two water crossings, neither very deep although the bottoms were rocky.
We pulled into the carpark of this very busy ‘resort’ and I waited in a queue to register, pay for a site ($20 per person a night) and the $10 per person ‘Wilderness Pass’, total $160 for three nights. There was also a $10 cash vehicle tag, refundable on departure! The remote riverside sites are $25 per person. There seems to be no shortage of people prepared to pay these prices, including ourselves, however we think they are pretty high even though the campground is large, shaded for the most part by big trees, and we were lucky enough to find a space to park right on the river. There is a beautiful cooling breeze for most of the day, and should be enough sun to replenish our batteries each day.
Before lunch we took a stroll up to the Shop and amenities, where John spied hot pies for sale and just had to have one, and I found a couple of books for the grandchildren.
So after lunch, we both decided we would like to have a look a little further west along the Gibb River Road, just to see the Pentecost river crossing but also to see what the surface of the road is like. For the first few kms there were roadworks but after that we bounced over corrugations and decided that we were very glad we were not going the whole 600 plus km distance to Derby!
The stunning landscape all around was worth it all, with the afternoon sun turning the ranges deep red and although there were fires burning and a smoke haze, I took many photographs in the hope that one or two would be ok. The Pentecost river crossing was no than those into the campground at El Questro but we stopped and had a walk around, taking a few photographs of the place.

Turning east, we drove past the entrance to the station until we came to Emma Gorge/Resort signage, then spent an enjoyable hour and a half walking to the end of the Gorge to a beautiful, lush green ferny, dripping wall of red rock. At the base was a deep pool where many people enjoyed a cooling swim. We had not come prepared (of course) so I was content to take photos and we sat a while in the cool before re tracing our steps back to the car park. Most of the walk was shaded by the tall palms, and for us because of the later afternoon, the sun was no longer shining down into the floor so it was a great time to do it.
I cooked our meal (atlantic salmon and vegetables) mostly outdoor on the gas and we ate under the awning in the cooling air. We could hear the entertainment up at the shop area, and the sounds of the campers around us as we got our evening chores underway but I had no problems drifting off to sleep.
Sunday August 4th
The night cooled down and the thermometer showed 13 degrees this morning, one of the coolest for months. We woke to the unmistakeable calls of blue winged kookaburras, a strange discordant skwark before daylight! Then the sounds of campers unzipping canvas.
After breakfast we decided to explore the station and set off towards Moonshine Gorge in the Pajero with morning tea and bottles of water in the small day pack. When we arrived at a rather long river crossing with signage to indicate a depth of 400mm we had a look, took photos and decided to give it a miss despite having a snorkel fitted! We are bits of wimps when it comes to such things and besides there was lots more to see. At Jackaroo’s waterhole, a pandanus fringed still pool, John threw a line in but managed to hook only tree branches! Still, it was a cool, shady place and would be lovely to have a picnic lunch.
Next stop was Zebedee Springs car park, a very busy place. The 1.5 km return shaded walk through tall livistona and pandanus palms leads to thermal pools and there were many people of all ages enjoying the warm bubbling water as it trickled down the stones into small pools. It is only open mornings, between 7am and Noon.
Our last walk was along Amalia Gorge, a moderate walk of 3 plus kms over river rocks, with a permanent pool half way and another at the end. There were a couple of challenging points, one a narrow rocky ledge with a four metre drop, and another above a deep, dark pool. I chickened out of going further and we turned back, a good move, as the day was already hot and it was nearly midday.
We drove back along the very dusty, busy, roads passing the campground, towards Chamberlain Gorge and the boat launching spot and the jetty where a few small hire boats were moored. John decided to try for a barra, and although he was unsuccessful, thought it looked promising and decided to go back later in the afternoon.
We returned to our cool, shaded van. It was lovely sitting outside with river views and a cooling breeze and we enjoyed lunch there. For the remainder of the day we read, and then John fished until dark while I prepared and cooked our evening meal outside on the gas. He did have success with the fishing although said the barra he landed was just under legal size and he plans to return tomorrow afternoon to try again. We ate outside, then used our shower to clean off some of the red dust! We are glad we have a toilet to use as it’s a few hundred metres to the nearest amenities, and even John has been using it.
Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt. John Muir
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