The Kimberley - Purnululu NP - Cathedral Gorge and a Helicopter flight over the Bungle Masif

Tuesday, Jul 18, 2006 at 00:00


Tuesday 18th July
Purnululu National Park W.A.
(The Bungle Bungles)

Today was one of those days in which you feel like you’ve done a lot more than you actually have. Here, at the end of the day were both thoroughly stuffed yet haven’t expended that much energy. A lousy nights sleep, most probably due to the afore-mentioned bottle of red, hasn’t helped the issue but it was a very leisurely start never the less. We didn’t have to be anywhere until, 11.00 and that was the Belburn airstrip for our heli flight. Breakfast was a read of the Weekend Australian, JT had a book to finish then what ever we wanted. Me jaffles and JT, toast and three coffees. The tragedy of the day was the loss of our purloined wine glasses that both took a tumble from the table this morning (my fault) and smashed. Back to the plastic I’m afraid. We fussed about camp generally relaxing and preparing little bits and pieces like water bottles, packs and thermos before itchy feet got the better of both of us and we headed off at 10:00 a.m.

We were at the airfield by 10:30 a.m. and what a hive of activity it was. All the tour groups servicing the area were present together with the straggler type tourists such as John and myself. Being an hour early afforded us time to chat, have a tea and prepare for the flight. Being his first ever helicopter flight, I managed to psych John up, by asking who his dentist was for forensic purposes etc etc. You know the old, “Don’t worry Johnno, helicopters have the glide angle of a brick once the motors stop so you won’t feel a thing”! So at 11:40 we were shepherded about our Robinson 440 four seater. No doors so all the better to take photos. Johnno opted for the front as it was his first ever helicopter flight. He took to it like a duck to water and didn’t stop grinning till 15 minutes after we landed.

The flight was great. It was somewhat blustery and the chopper was buffeted by the southeasterly winds coming out of the Tanami. Our pilot gave a running commentary as we flew over the entire Bungle Massif cruising up some of the larger gorges and emerging on the western wall and then heading north to the northern most extremities, flying over the Pinnacle Creek and depression (from the meteorite impact some millions of years back). Our final portion of the flight took us along the southern regions where the more recognisable beehive formations are. It was fantastic and both cameras where clicking continuously. I took nearly 200 photos and Johnno over 120, both with the lexicon “more is good” in mind. At least we might get a few useable shots from the many we took.

After landing and calming down a bit, we then headed to Cathedral gorge and had lunch in the parking area underneath the giant domes. Cathedral walk follows Pinnacle Creek skirting the edge of the ranges for a short time and then heads north into the domes themselves. The access becomes narrower before emerging into a spectacular natural amphitheatre. Again it is so huge that photo’s do it little justice. It really is amazing stuff. Much of the sand covered floor is overhung by a massive roof formed where soft rock has been eroded away by wind and water forming huge caverns with towering cliffs. On the walk out, it was amazing to see termite nests standing erect on the sides of the domes often a hundred metres up the side of a dome wall. If you looked carefully you could see a thin trail of nest clay about 10 to 15 cm thick running downwards from the nest to the ground. Talk about building real estate with a view! On the stroll into frog hole we spied a few rock paintings but nothing truly spectacular. We headed back to our tent via the other campground for a look. A shower (bloody great) and then a bottle of chards with dinner (Chicken Korma) then it was over to the communal camp fire for a chat then a milo and bed at about 9:15 pm.
''We knew from the experience of well-known travelers that the
trip would doubtless be attended with much hardship.''
Richard Maurice - 1903
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