Purnululu and Warmun

About 200km south of Kununurra is the world heritage listed Purnululu National Park also known as the Bungle Bungles.   Although it was a bit out of our way the scenery is pretty impressive and it is near the aboriginal community of Warmun, which is also worth a visit to see the ocre based art works they produce.

When we visited Purnululu 16 years ago, the 55km access road was extremely rough with some hectic washed out creek crossings and tricky maneuvering required between trees, so with this memory we decided to base ourselves at the dusty caravan park near the main road and drive in without the caravan.   Well, in 16 years things have certainly changed.   It is now a well formed gravel road and albeit quite windy, I expect that it would be passable in a normal two wheel drive car if you took a bit of care on the handful of slightly rocky sections.     It would have been no problem getting the Kedron into Purnululu.    Having said this, there were some corrugations on the first 10km or so – but by no means bad.   So maybe they get a bit worse later in the season and people possibly use this as a basis to perpetuate online adventure stories about the “atrocious” access road that we had read that also put us off trying.

Anyway, not having the luxury of a caravan to sleep in, I was not keen to camp in a tent in a busy, dusty camping area so took the opportunity to do an overnight walk up Piccaninni Gorge into the heart of the Bungle Bungles range.    I am certainly glad I did this.   The first 8 km. followed Piccaninni Creek as it winds through the amazing beehive formations that make the Bungle Bungles famous.  It then enters the gorge itself with its spectacular 200m high cliffs and white sandy creek bed dotted with lime green vegetation and occasional rock pools.   The photos below really don’t do any justice to the place.     I spent the night camped on the sand under the stars (those that could be seen between the cliffs), then explored the upper parts of the gorge in the morning before returning.

bungle and creekbed
The water worn bed of Piccaninni Creek with the famous Bungle Bungle beehive hills behind 
creek and bungles
The beehives are formed from eroded sandstone.  The orange layers being oxidised iron on the surface and the dark layers being formed by a surface layer of cyanobacteria.   The sandstone itself is normally white as can be seen in the creek-bed.   
gorge at sunset
On entering the gorge, the creek-bed becomes sandy and although it’s hard walking on soft sand with a backpack – it was nice and shady. 
black rock falls pool
Black Rock Pool – the largest pool in the gorge.   It sits against the south facing wall of the gorge and was very cold.   So it wasn’t too hard to obey the no-swimming request.  
hiking up piccaninni gorge
Looking for a nice camp spot further the gorge – anywhere would do really, but I was after an east-west section of gorge where the moon would provide some light in the evening.
gorge camp
A nice simple creek-bed camp 
gorge stars
Piccaninni Gorge camp view by the light of the crescent moon.
gorgeous morning
Radiation from the gorge walls kept the valley nice and warm all night.  Even though the temperature was forecast to drop to 9 degrees overnight in the surrounding areas, I never really needed my fleece jacket – even in the early morning.
gorge junction panorama
Piccaninni Gorge Panorama at the junction of side gorge 1 – where there was also a nice warm sunny pool.
gorge pool
Further up the gorge the sandy floor was often replaced by these eroded rock gullies  
gorge termite mound
Interesting termite mounds cling to the rock and have little access tunnels leading over the rocks to the soil.  
morning gorge scene
Although there were plenty of foot prints, I had the place to myself (ignoring the occasional scenic helicopter flights passing overhead)
side gorge tree
Trees and palms in side gorge 5
bungle termint mound
Star-trek was before my time, but I guess this is a Klingon
white quilled rock pigeon 2
There were plenty of birds including white-quilled rock pigeon, but the only mammals I saw were feral cats (3 in total).
creek and bungles 2
More beehive formations on the walk out.
cathedral gorge
Just before returning to the car park, I took the short side trip up Cathedral Gorge.  As it was later in the day, the big tour groups had all left so I managed to get this rare panorama shot and selfie below without the normal hordes.    There were still quite a few people about – I only had it to myself for about 2 minutes.

cathedral gorge 2

After driving and spending a final night at the caravan park, we dropped into the art centre at the Warmun aboriginal community.    We had visited briefly 16 years ago and were keen to spend a bit more time there.

We had a great time and were shown around by the very warm, friendly and informative Lindsay Malay and his wife Marika Riley who are artists there and had fortunately opened the art centre on a Sunday morning for a tour group (who never seemed to show up).

Unlike many other Aboriginal art styles which use acrylic paint, the Warmun artists use traditional ocres which can be seen in the buckets below.   As a result they have a earthy colours and texture.   While we got a couple of photos of some painted rocks outside the art centre, we didn’t feel comfortable taking photos of the artworks inside the gallery.   Even though we left with an investment ourselves, it has been very carefully wrapped up so we don’t want to unwrap it to take a photo ourselves.   However it is by an artist called Phyllis Thomas who passed away late last year and some of her works can be seen here: https://warmunart.com.au/art/artists/senior/phyllis-thomas/

From Warmun, we headed back up north to our next destination, but passed some interesting fat termite mounds on the way.    When viewed from one side, the one below reminded me of a diprotodon (an extinct giant wombat).   From the other side Maddy thought it looked more like a giant sheep that had missed several musters and had accumulated many years of overgrown wool.


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