Sunday, 19 May 2013

#50-53 - Purnululu National Park - LOST in the "Bungle Bungles" (this is long - sorry!)

We will stay three nights and take four days to "do" the " Bungle Bungles". 

Typical Bungles ... the mounds are encased in a skin of silica and the black stripes are algae

It's the highlight of this trip - the most-talked-about stop - the stop that required much coordination and pre-booking - the stop that joseph first heard about 30 years ago and has wanted to do ever since. The stop that our vans cannot go with us!

To do this stop we rent two four-wheel drive SUV's and two four-man camping packs (i.e. 2 tents that sleep 4 people and everything else you need to CAMP).The challenge is to fit everything in! 

A swag (one per person) - did they seriously think I would sleep inside one of these inside a tent?
We decide that because the temperature is 35c max 21c min we won't take the swags - just the sheets and mattresses - that frees up almost a card-load. We don't need much room for our clothing (depending on how much hiking gear you have!) and with four grown men all with degrees (three from Queen's for goodness sake) it really shouldn't be a problem… and it isn't … we are all in.

There's no point trying to help...                                             I never do it correctly!!

It's a three hour drive to the park entrance and then it takes one hour of driving on the bone-rattling, stomach-churning "road" to reach our campsites. 

Everybody is really excited about our spot! 

The eco-toilet that we share with a dozen other campers is just a short walk away 

and the river behind us is dry so no mosquitoes (the camp host confirms this) and the flies haven't really "come out" yet (the camp host confirms this )

You can help!  ... yeah right!

drop off your catches ...

the cane toads only come out at night and the dingoes shouldn't bother us (host confirms)

Near the area where the helicopter lands - he was there when
we came out so I think he's a regular.

and the part that makes me deliriously happy is the cloud cover that keeps the temperature (almost) pleasant.

We setup camp and are raring to go.

"our" dinner - potatoes, cheese and coleslaw (& a tiny dab of sour cream)
 - everybody's new favourite!

 The sunsets at 5.00 p.m. so we cook and eat in the dark and because it's too early to go to bed at 6.30 we sing some songs and drink some more and then finally there is nothing left to do except retire to the tents! 

Our mattresses (in the girls' tent) line the edge of the tent so nobody has anybody else's face near their's and a two of us a placed strategically near the door for both air and night-time exits. The mattresses are comfortable enough and if you lie really really still the hot humid air that has descended (almost) doesn't bother you.

Mr. Kookaburra sitting ...                       Tawny Frogmouths (there's 2 there!) -they stood like this for  hours!

Turns out it's a good thing we go to bed at 7.30 p.m. because we are up at 5.30 a.m. each morning so we can make sure we don't miss any of the hikes!!  We drive out to the sites (39kms one day) and then the democracy that we are agrees to do a small hike first and eat breakfast after. I just make it.  

Hurry up! Paul's having trouble as well.                      He's chief cook and bottle washer and organizer!

After pancakes at dawn - we do another, longer hike into the cracks in the rocks, a nice non-challenging hike (with stairs!) and if you are me, you hightail it back out before the sun becomes unbearable.  

Stairs - how civilized!

If you are the rest of the group, you choose to do another small loop at the end and so they are baked by the time they arrive back to the car where I"m waiting

The reward at the end of the "Cathedral " walk!

Well that's what happened the first day....

The joyous group - so happy to be up at this hour having a yummy cold breakfast at Echidna Chasm!

On the second day, the second hike into the Mini Palm's Gorge is 3.5hrs long and it's a lot (lot) more challenging than the day before. I grit my teeth (every so tightly) and tackle the squeezes under, over and through the cracks… I climb up and over gritty rocks and finally I reach the point where I can't go any further (I'm about 7/8th of the way in). 

So I say adios amigos and turn around and hightail it out.

Once I'm past the rocks and cracks, I get walking at a pretty good speed, even though I'm walking on a river bed full of rounded stones (ouch) with no flat bits to be seen!  I'm walking for longer than I should it seems and I can't see any signage, but my instincts are very good so I keep walking because I remember this river went past the carpark and I know that regardless the river will lead me somewhere.  

The path I missed...
I'm pretty hot by now and Joseph has the water but I see a car whizz by so I know there is a road up ahead - yippee!  Once I reach the road I realize that I have been on the forbidden river-bed and as I turn right, along comes a truck with some aboriginal men who stop to check that I'm OK.  They ask me how far I've walked and I tell them I just came down this river and apologize for being where I shouldn't and I verify that up ahead is the Echidna Chasm car park and they say yes… and they drive off!  I figure it must be just a short hop skip jump to the parking lot otherwise they would have offered me a ride. Well for them I guess it was a short hop, but for me it's another kilometre on top of the 5 (or so) I've already done, so when I finally arrive at the site I'm spent.

I came upon this sign from behind - I had no idea I shouldn't be there!
There is no sign of the others or the cars and for the life of me, I can't figure out why they wouldn't wait for me.  I figured that with the head-start and the good time I was making, even though I probably went further than I needed, I still might have even beat them back - at worst they would only be waiting for me a short time.  So I lie down on the bench to try and recover (there is no drinking water in the park and no water at all at this site) and I look around and confirm that I'm at the same spot that I left from.  Yep - it's the same spot we had breakfast, but then I remember that after breakfast we DROVE to Mini Palms Gorge -  back down the road!!   

So this is a bit of a conundrum - nobody has phones (and mine is dead from reading a book on it late into the night) so I wait for some other hikers to come out and ask if they would drop me off down the road… and just as I'm hopping in to their car, Joseph and K&E arrive… and I must say I was very happy to see them.

Apparently they all thought I was lost!!  So they went into recovery mode and walked and drove for miles (kms) looking for me and it was only because Joseph knows me so well that he was able to convince Ken that I would have turned RIGHT at the river - not left as was so obvious (to them) - that they came back to the breakfast spot and found me.  

Back with the group it's all huggy and kissy and the whole "incident" turned out to be a very good team-building exercise.  So the happy group head back to camp because I'm not going on another hike - not ever and I need to eat and drink to replace all that i may have lost.

Me - thanking everybody for their help and explaining that I was NOT lost!

On the fourth day the group are sad to leave - I'm beyond giddy with delight.
 - one more swish of the toilet 
- a wave to Pat the camp host
Bye Pat!
Pat is a VOLUNTEER!!  
and it's off down that bone-rattling, stomach-churning "road"  - back to  - the van!!  

At the entrance to the park - in the middle of absolutely nowhere - flat whites!!
On the way out - just as our stomachs are about to leave us, the one bird the birders didn't see on this trip (and trust me they, stopped and checked out a lot of birds)- the spinafex pigeon is there on the road in front of us. Everybody sees it (phew!) and it actually IS quite a beautiful bird so we stop at the park office and buy the t-shirt.  

T-shirt graphic - the Spinafex Pigeon is in there somewhere!

I need something to prove that I travelled that god-forsaken road because when Joseph brings Jasper here to show him, I know I won't be with them.

Day #1 hike!
Note the different hiking gear!
(arms covered, hiking shoes, long pants! -  I just can't walk in that.)

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