Lots of Bungles
25 August 2012
It’s been great to be on the road again, and a nice flat highway too! We have been happy to be travelling again after our stay in Broome. For the first time in a couple of months we headed east, towards Purnululu National Park (the Bungle Bungles). We stopped for the night at Fitzroy Crossing, a largely Aboriginal community between Broome and Halls Creek. Both Halls Creek and Fitzroy Crossing have fairly strict alcohol restrictions, they sell only light beer as take away. As you can imagine the bottle shop is pretty sparse so it has recently started to diversify and they now sell hard boiled eggs, ham and luggage as well. I have been doing some reading about the impact the alcohol restrictions have had on the community since they were introduced five years ago. There are two sides to every story of course and some say it has not made much difference and is bad for business (no doubt it is if you own a bottle shop) but the overwhelming majority seem to think it has made a massive difference, apparently drastically increasing school attendance and reducing violence. As always I am interested in the social and political issues in areas we go to but of course travelling through you can never get a full picture.
From Fitzroy Crossing we spent part of a morning on a boat trip in Geikie Gorge, which cuts through the same ancient limestone reef formation as Windjana and Tunnel Creek, about 100km to the north-west. We got up early and headed to the gorge for the first morning boat trip up the river. We glided along the water past freshies basking in the morning sun, through a racing cloud of fairy swallows ducking and diving and racing up to their mud nests built at the base of the cliffs on the ceilings of overhangs. The wet season floods have carved out the limestone at the base of the cliffs leaving behind water worn curving holes and waves in the rock, as if an abstract sculptor had been let loose and paid by the curve. Soon, we were told, the fruit bats would be here for the blossoming trees, they drink by swooping down to dip their bellies in the river and licking it off. This is a time when the crocs look forward to snacking on a tasty treat brought to them on a wing (if they are very quick). From Geikie Gorge we carried along the highway, pausing to look around Halls Creek, and grab a six pack from the unusual but somewhat pleasing sight of the bottle shop that only stocked four types of light beer, and trying to diversify rapidly, hard boiled egg anyone?
About a 100k’s out of Halls Creek we stayed overnight at a road side rest area and looked forward to heading into the Bungles. We heard the road in had been graded recently, and it took us about almost two hours to do the 50 odd km’s into the national park. The Bungle Bungles are quite iconic in Australia and very photogenic. They are a range of huge rock formations that have eroded into rounded mounds with steep gorges and chasms between them.
We visited the north end of the Bungles when we first got into the park, the highlight of which was a narrow slit, called Echidna Chasm, that runs deeply into the massive pebbly sandstone (conglomerate) in this area. We walked along the narrow 200m deep trench late in the morning, as the sun crept into the top of the chasm it lit up the orange rocks above, setting them alight. It is a wondrous place, narrow enough to easily touch both walls, walls packed full of rounded pebbles that tower up and up on each side leaving a narrow slit open into the sky high above.
Next day 26th August 2012
We didn’t finish the blog last night because we got a fire going to cook our potatoes and ended up having a lovely evening chatting away and laughing with other travellers. We have met some really nice people over the past few days. Yesterday as we were sunscreening up for our morning walk we met a very friendly bloke, Sam who we had a great chat with. Then as we were finishing our hot walk we met a nice family who are our neighbours in the campground, a family of four from Newcastle travelling for a year. When we were back at camp hiding in the shade in the 39 degree heat Danny came up for a great chat about each others travels. We invited him and his wife Kelly and their cute little boy to join us at the fire later for some marshmallows. So just as we were poking the potatoes to see if they were done they joined us at the fire and a few others made their way over later. It was a really nice evening of travel stories around the fire. I love hearing about people’s trips, its so interesting. We are still trying to decide if the Swiss couple we met on a tandem bike are really committed or really mad to be cycling from Darwin to Perth. They took 7 hours to ride into the Bungels and were sore, it is a difficult ride on the hilly road and had not expected it to be so long or so rough. They were hoping to get a lift out, not surprisingly. Good on ‘em. We have not seen them on the road this morning so I think they must have got the lift they were hoping for!
We left camp at 6:30 this morning as we heard the shop in Halls Creek shuts at 11:30 on a Sunday and they can also run out of fuel sometimes at the weekend so we thought we better try to get their fairly early. The birds squawking and the dingos howling had us awake early anyway. We said good morning and adios to our neighbours and are now on the road to Halls Creek. We have a lot to do there as we can book our flights now! Friday before close of business Sydney time we used the Sat phone to ring the shipping people to confirm we are on the 4 Oct(ish) ‘sailing’ and were we ok to drop Landy then head to the airport for a flight. They confirmed we are on the early Oct ship but they can’t confirm exactly what day it leaves yet (within a day or two of 4th though) and that once we drop Landy we are done, they said we can catch a flight that afternoon as long as we send them a postcard. We don’t care if the ship leaves the 2nd or the 4th as we will be in Sydney, as long as Landy arrives safe about a month later in Durban!
So when we arrive in Halls Creek in about an hour or so we will do heaps of internet stuff, get fuel, shop for food, ring mums, email off the carnet forms (passport for Landy), fill our water and check in with the police as we have decided to go ahead with the Canning. Eeks. We are both a little nervous but not bad nervous and are think we will settle in after a few days. The things that freak me out are the things that also appeal, the remoteness for one. I have never been that remote. I have never had to get water from a well with a bucket or not had access to a toilet for about 6 days. We are both excited and nervous. We really want to experience the remoteness of the track and be in the desert. It seems Landy is running well since we left Broome and Olly is feeling confident about her. After our extra stay in Broome we have shaved a few days off the time we plan to take as we are both very keen to have plenty of snorkel time at the reef.
Later today will make our way down to Wolfe Creek (no we have NOT seen the film!) and check out the meteorite crater there and then hit the road, well hit the track anyway.
We wont have internet or phone for well over a week but will no doubt have plenty to post when we pop out to the coast near eighty mile beach and get reception near Port Headland. EXCITING!
L and O