Panorama of the Bungle Bungles as seen from the dry bed of pickaninny Creek
We booked a four-wheel drive tour of the Bungle Bungle Ranges departing from The Turkey Creek Roadhouse at Warmum, leaving at 5.30 am and returning just after 7 pm – 14 hours, leaving in the dark and returning in the pitch-black.
All aboard the Bungle Bus as we take off after lunch to visit the Cathedral Gorge.
Our guide, Neil checks that no one is missing while Gary is in the shotgun seat next to the driver
In that time we drove 50 km each way on the bitumen about 50 km each way through Mabel Downs station on the worst road I have ever travelled on in Australia. As our driver/guide Neil said “you can drive around potholes and big rocks on the roads but you can’t do anything about the corrugations”. The road is graded once every year after the “wet” but by August after 1600 cars and many buses and trucks drive this track it is just pounded into long steep and winding sections of corrugations, separating the dry creek bed crossings. Our vehicle was a 14 seater bus add-on on the back of a four-wheel drive cab. It was air-conditioned with comfortable seats but nothing could overcome the hammering and the noise of those corrugations. We crossed 53 creek crossing just getting to the Park itself – only 2 had water, the others dry and stony.
The view from the front seat give no idea of the bone jarring impact of driving over these corrugations. There was no way around them.
The area is amazing geologically – one of the reasons it is Listed World heritage is that in a short distance you can see three distinct geological area of very differently formed sedimentary strata. One of the reasons for restricting visitors into this area is its extreme fragility. The Bungle formation is made mainly of massive conglomorate – huge pebbles held together with sand and mud and little cementing material. The amazing banding comes from very thin surface layers of very primitive cyanobacteria (the dark bands) and iron oxide (rust – the red bands). If these layers are breached then sand comes pouring out, the big pebbles are undercut and come tumbling down into the chasms and creek beds.
One of Julie’s images taken with her Olympus camera of the famous formations
The possibilities for a photographer are overwhelming with the contrast between the vivid colours of rocks, sky and vegetation, the amazing shapes to capture and textures to imply tend to have your shutter working overtime. At the same time, the documentaries you have seen on TV, with their moving images, soundtracks and commentaries lending emotion to the experience of virtually experiencing the area and the calendar and coffee table book photographs and those sold, wonderfully framed in the tourist shops are a bit daunting. This is where the disadvantage of being on a short-term group tour impacts. We were in the Echidna Chasm at 9 am and the Cathedral Gorge at about 2 pm and at neither time was the light overhead to warm the walls of the chasms with sunlight. Our guide, Neil told me he had accompanied a group of six photographers who camped 5 days, with opportunities to bring in tripods and mud just wait for the light to be right.
This is what makes the difference getting the money shot for publication – the time to wait for the conditions to allow the camera and photographer to make an image just close to what the lucky visitor, like us, get to experience in reality.
Near the end of the day with just another 20 km of bone jarring roads before we hit the highway home, we stop for a cuppa and to enjoy the Kimberley sunset.