The Victoria Hwy seems to be a lonely stretch of road until we notice a large convoy of army tanks (approx 25) parked just off the highway. Unfortunately I missed a great photo opportunity however luckily over the next 200km we pass at least another 100 army vehicles via six separate convoys. There were tanks, hummers, trucks and ambulances to name a few. We assumed there was some form of training mission occurring and I then noticed on the map between the north of the Victoria Hwy and the Joseph Bonaparte Gulf, there is a large military training area. As we pass through these areas the rugged terrain cannot go unnoticed, as we imagine what a training mission would be like. Most of the water ways must be crocodile infested, not to mention the extreme heat which is now a minimum 38’c each day. We stop at Timber Creek for a quick lunch then swiftly on our way again as we pass a large number of very impressive Boab trees. The valleys and ranges that we meander through are stunning.
We arrive at the quarantine station on the WA/NT Border and even though we had attempted to consume all the fruit we were carrying we had missed our last two apples.
WA has tight restrictions when it comes to entering their state with fruit and vegetables in particular, however also nuts and honey to name a few. We were asked to erect the van so they could check the fridge. Thankfully nobody was in the queue ahead of us and the officer advised tourist numbers had dropped significantly in the past couple of weeks as the temperatures had soared, which apparently occurs around this time each year.
As we cross the border we enter a new time zone and we are now 1.5hrs behind NT or 2hrs behind AEST. With first light appearing around 4.30am, the kids have been waking up anywhere between 4am and 5am, which can be a bit challenging at times. Although this is early it has actually worked in our favour as we tend to pack more into a day. The morning we depart Kununurra, we have breakfast, pack the van and depart before 6:45am.
We had heard Lake Argyle was definitely worth a visit so we head straight there. We admired the incredible scenery along the way and there were rock walls that appeared to tower over the top of you.
The Lake Argyle Caravan Park had the most amazing backdrop. Set atop a mountain range, the park overlooked Lake Argyle and encapsulated much of the surrounding ranges. The wet edge pool overlooking the lake was fantastic, albeit rather cool.
Lake Argyle’s capacity is reputedly 9 times that of Sydney Harbour and is home to some 30,000 fresh water crocodiles, 26 species of native fish, 90 islands (residents include marsupials and reptiles) and approximately 1/3 of Australia’s bird species. Originally a 1 million acre cattle station, the property was flooded and dammed in 1971 for the purpose of local irrigation and is referred to as the Ord Irrigation Scheme.
It is the largest manmade lake in the southern hemisphere and at full capacity covers 2,000 km2.
We venture down some 4WD tracks and admire the many vantage points and take in the beauty of the surrounding area, including Pannikin Bay, Gundarim Ridge and Matheson Range.
Kununurra is the gateway to the East Kimberly range and we stay overnight having stocked up on water and fruit and veg. We had an unusual experience stocking up on beer and wine at the local bottle shop. Mike received a tap on the shoulder by the timid shop assistant who politely advises him that whilst in The Kimberley region purchases are restricted to no more than one bottle of grog within a 24hr period. Michael buys one bottle and then sends me in for the other.
The visit to Zebra Rocks was worthwhile as we view the various rocks that had been mined in Lake Argyle. In fact, the Lake Argyle region is the only known area in the world where zebra rocks exist however ever since the dam came into existence the level of mining has diminished. After a sensational mango smoothie (they also have a mango plantation at the property) we feed the fish at their jetty overlooking the Ord river.
The Bungle Bungles are approx. 5 hours from Kununurra and once again we had been informed by many travellers that the road to the Bungle Bungles, once leaving the Northern Highway, is a rough and corrugated 4WD track. Whilst enjoying the bitumen and spectacular scenery of the Great North Hwy, we are not deterred by the road reports and set off for the Bungles. Along the way we pass the Argyle Diamond Mine and Mt Romance (one of the largest Indian sandalwood plantations in the world). There certainly appears to be a lot going on in the Kununurra region as far as the local economy goes.
After nearly 3hrs we reach the entrance to the Bungle Bungles and enter a property called ‘Mabel Downs’. The road ahead is of course dirt and rock and is already heavily corrugated. Many people opt to unhitch caravans and campers and head in with only 4WD and tents. We reduce the tyre pressure by approx. 8PSI and set off for yet another bumpy ride with camper trailer in tow. The 53km stretch of rough road has a number of river crossings as we traverse deep gullies and high ridges. Just after two hours later we arrive at the Bungles and make our way to Kurrajong campground which is located in the northern area of the park. The Bungle Bungles, or Purnululu National Park, was granted dual World Heritage listing back in 2003 for its natural beauty and outstanding geological value. Surprisingly, and no doubt due to its inaccessible location, the Bungles were only discovered in 1983 by a film crew. We walked several tracks including the Echidna Chasm and Osmand Lookout. The 200 metre chasm has the most spectacular colours and was formed hundreds of millions of years ago. The Livistona palms can be located high up in crevices and these palms are only found in a few places within The Kimberley.
The camping ground was relatively quiet, until we came along of course, and after a good nights rest we headed for the southern area of the park.
The Bungles are predominately a series of incredible orange and grey coloured domes, and unlike anything you would see elsewhere. The sandstone deposited here 360 million years ago is fragile and over millions of years they have eroded and the result is these exceptional gorges and domes we see today. The banded colours of sandstone are the presence of cyanobacteria within the grey area and the orange is due to the absence of cyanobacteria, as the iron has oxidised and dried out too quickly. This fascinating place actually reminds me of ruins from an ancient city. We walk a very dry creek bed to the Piccaninny Creek Lookout. The creek bed has been carved out from the raging water that flows here in the wet. The lookout gives you an interesting perspective of the wonderful characteristics of this fascinating rock formation.
Cathedral Rock is stunning as we watch on bemused whilst a young boy starts playing his electric guitar, whilst his dad set up the amplifier and then filmed his performance. Perhaps this was going to be an audition tape for X Factor. We walk several other trails as we are completely amazed by this place. The Bungles are certainly worth visiting and definitely one of the highlights so far.