Western Australia’s Bungle Bungle ranges hold the same near-mythical status as destinations such as Uluru, Cape York, and Big Red. Of course, the fabled 53 kilometres of rough dirt road that lead into the 600,000-acre Purnululu National Park explains part of the mystique. Tackling the track, which is most definitely 4WD only, ensures that only the hardy and the determined adventurer can discover this secret world.
Declared a World Heritage Site in 2003, Purnululu contains ‘superlative examples of beehive-shaped karst sandstone rising 250 metres above the surrounding semi-arid savannah grasslands’.
The region has great Aboriginal cultural significance and boasts rock paintings and various burial sites, yet it is said to have been ‘discovered’ as recently as 1983 by a film crew. Given that the Bungle Bungle ranges are only 100 kilometres off the highway, about 300 kilometres south of Kununurra, makes that fact all the more remarkable.
The best way to experience the area’s gorges, pools and towers is on foot. First port of call for most people is the walk from the Piccaninny Creek car park to Cathedral Gorge, a massive natural amphitheatre with incredible acoustics. Many visitors like to spend time here sitting on a ledge and soaking up the atmosphere. A short detour along the connected Domes Walk to explore more sandstone ‘beehives’ and dried creek beds are well worth the effort. The walk to Echidna Chasm with a short challenging climb near the end is another highlight. The parks service describes this photographers’ paradise as a spectacularly long, narrow chasm boasting striking colour variations, depending on the angle of the sun beaming into the chasm. It’s unforgettable but so is so much of this remarkable place. Both the Walanginjdji Sunset Lookout and the Osmand Lookout are great places to remind yourself of why.
There are two campsites, Walardi Campground and the larger Kurrajong Campground. Both have toilets. Most people leave their van behind while they tackle the track in their 4WD and rough it in a tent for a few nights. One option for leaving the van is the free camping area at the Spring Creek Rest Area near the Bungle Bungle turn-off. Others though prefer the greater security promised at the Bungle Bungle Caravan Park on Mabel Downs Station, also right at the turnoff. This is also a good place for non-4WDers to organise a 4WD Bus Tour or a flight.