Burton's Perth to Cape York - Leycester’s Rest to Bungle Bungles 21-22 June 2011 Day 82-84

Sunday, Jul 29, 2012 at 07:55

Red Dirt Australia

It was cold! I don’t remember the Kimberleys being like this. Made me glad that I’d packed my merino thermal undies purchased during our last ice-age experience in Tassie! Jack was fine in his tent snug in the -9 degree C sleeping bag, but poor missy Kate constantly complained of cold in her not so good minus 5 jobbie. Note to self – bring ice-age sleeping bag next time.

We were really looking forward to showing Pat and Jeff the world heritage listed Bungles. Three years ago first tackled the Spring Creek track and enjoyed it immensely. The four wheel driving was quite an adventure, the campfires at night with a glass or three and the walks out to see the banded beehive structures and towers contrasting with the vivid green of the fan palms were some of the highlights of our last Kimberley exploit.

It didn’t take long to hit the entrance to the Bungles or the politically correct Purnululu National Park. What is going on here? Why are we changing all the names of our places to some difficult to pronounce minority language? We just learned that Wolfe Creek Crater is now Kandimalal and Rudall National Park is now Karlamilyi National Park – soon I won’t know any of places I’ve visited in my own country! That’s enough ranting, we soon pulled in to the entrance only to find that a new caravan park has been constructed called un-politically ‘Bungle Bungle Caravan Park’ about 1 kilometre in. We heard from others that it is quite expensive currently charging $45 per night for a powered site for two people -$10 per additional person which means for a family of four the cost is $65 – wow! They have only 20 powered sites available and it will cost you $20 per day to store your van!

Whilst airing down, having a toilet break we read the Department of Environment’s notice boards with interest – no dual axles, single axle off road campers or caravans only, only offroad high clearance, four wheel drive vehicles and low range gears. ‘Reduce tyre pressure by approximately 10psi from normal highway pressures’ and ‘firewood is provided for your convenience…collecting or bringing firewood is prohibited’. Well we found all of these were blatantly ignored. Whilst we were airing down, we observed lots off vehicles going straight in at obvious highway pressures. We didn’t actually see anyone pull over and drop or raise pressures the whole time we were there. We spotted soft roaders, suburus, and on-road caravans and even one dual axle during our visit! Mind you we did see the tow truck going back and forth as well :-) This is probably the reason the track deteriorates so rapidly and corrugations develop.

We also found later that individual fires on booked campsites are now prohibited. You can only join one of the limited ‘communal fires’ – what a blow this is! We also later learned that they are soon to ban fires all together! Yegods! This is the one of the mainstays of the camping experience.,..our children’s children will not know the raw primal pleasure of the campfire, the fun of toasting marshmallows, the fragrance of the fire permeating the clothes, hair and tent, only to bring back this memory many days later! We always carry a spacecase full of cut jarrah for areas where wood is in limited supply or not available. We build responsible fires, but I suppose the cretins of the world who abuse this right have now spoiled it for the rest of us! It is quite upsetting to see the highway roadside stops, especially here in Western Australia stripped of all foliage - the nomads and others cut down green trees just to have a fire! Come on guys – plan ahead!

The 53km Spring Creek track passing through the private Mable Downs Station was enormous fun. With tyre pressures down to 26psi and the Old Man Emu beefed up suspension and air bags the ride was not uncomfortable. It was frustrating to catch up to others with full tyre pressures and a standard set-up carefully crawling at 20kph but not moving over for those faster than them. We would often get fists waved at us or slow down arm motions when in reality we were driving to conditions and the capability of our rig. There are obviously arguments and counter arguments for both sides, but we have concluded that if you are travelling off road in rough terrain then your equipment should be set up for it. It is illogical for a soft roader towing a Jayco travelling at 20km/hr to complain about a high clearance 4WD towing a heavy duty off-road trailer overtaking at 50km/hr – tough titty and stick to the bitumen or get an upgrade!

We hit fun water crossings, single lane tracks, blind corners, bulldust and lots of corrugations! Driving to conditions (and the capability of the equipment) was essential and so was high alertness for the Britz and Hertz hire troopies with inexperienced four wheel drivers hurtling the other way disregarding the one lane blind corners! The last section of the track after Calico Springs was more interesting and challenging with plenty of hilly blind switchbacks. The scenery was more interesting with red bluffs, great water crossings and all round more fun. All in all, the track is not technically difficult, does not require low range but does require care, good suspension preparation and watching out for those who might not be quite as prepared or experienced as you.

At the Visitors Centre we queued politely to show our Annual Parks Pass, show them our pre-booking for Walardi Camp Generator Site 29 and learn that fires are no longer allowed. We also learned that BGC are in process of bitumising the first part of the Gibb River Road to El Questro – shock, horror! DEC now requires pre-booking of all sites on-line prior to arrival, similar to the new Queensland arrangement. Last trip we were put in the group camping area which provided huge sites. Booking on-line allows you to look at photos of your chosen site. We were a little bemused to find that G29 looked nothing like its photo and was much smaller. We met the friendly people camped next door in a Kimberley campertrailer and they told us horror stories of the ‘communal campfire’. Apparently a small group of doctors had moved in on it, setting up tables and generally being loud and obnoxious. When any other campers attempted to share the limited room around the fire they were discouraged with rude remarks and the cold shoulder.

Setting up the AORC Oddy took minutes although we brought out the solar panel for this stay. We did run the Honda 10i once as we hadn’t been on power for a couple of days and that damn Evakool chews through some amps in warmish weather. The site was next to a huge dried up creek bed with steep crumbing edges – warnings to the kids! It was very cold at night and this probably contributed to the lack of mossies, midges and other nasty bities – every cloud has a silver lining.

We spent the next two days driving up and down and around the Park visiting Cathedral Gorge, Picaninny Lookout and Echidna Chasm. The place has an air of quietness and sanctity. It is almost spiritual. The air is fresh and the ancient white twenty million year old sands crunch under bare feet. It doesn’t matter how busy the attractions are, you often feel you are on your own. We timed each visit to maximise the benefit of the light, especially for Echidna. The walks were mildly strenuous with Pat only having some difficultly in Echidna climbing over the boulders towards the end. Access here was over large rocks, and care was needed not to turn an ankle. The kids loved it and had no difficulty.

We also explored Kurrajong Camp to see what the campsites are like. There were about 106 campsite numbers in small loops, none of them very private, usually 2-5 camps together without any screening between them. We concluded that Walardi provided better privacy; better sites and the generator section or the group camping areas were the way to go. As always the Bungles was superb although very cold at night.

Travelling around the park is dusty! There are quite a few large tour buses and a couple of decent water crossings to negotiate. The roads are all decent graded gravel; however the majority of drivers don’t seem to have dropped tyre pressures so corrugations get worse every day.

The trip in and out took about 1 ½ to 2 hours and travellers are reminded to carry enough fuel for about 100km of travelling within the park, the 60 km in and out as well as the 50km to and from Turkey Creek. There are some drop toilets around each camp with fresh water taps out side. The toilets were clean with paper provided – hooray said Amanda! We used the tap water for tea and coffee as well as washing.
Mike & Amanda
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