Travel Themes : Parks

Ailsa of <Where’s my backpack> blog has produced a stunning post about a park in New York. Now I had been to Central Park but the description and amazing photos of this High Line park have totally changed my image of New York. Go to her blog and drool over the beautiful photos.

Ailsa has also set the challenge this week for us to “show and tell” of Parks that inspire us…

Australia has many amazing National Parks. The diversity and range of climates, from desert to tropical rainforest create a country with National Parks, large and small to be enjoyed, walked in, camped in and all are well-managed by the Parks and wild life association.

I visited many of them on our trip around Australia, Kalbarri National Park during wild flower season, Katherine Gorge with the towering red ochre cliffs, the Daintree River winding through the lush rainforest, so many, and all so different. Still many more on my “to see” list.

Of them all the one that stands head and shoulders above the rest was the Bungle Bungle range in the Kimberley region of Western Australia…

Striking banded sandstone domes

I have had two very different experiences of these spectacular gorges and surreal landscape. The first was in 2005.

I booked on a tour with a local guide. Scott had been born in the area and he took small groups of 9 people in his 4 WD on a 2 day safari into the heart of the Bungles. Not many tours drove into this wilderness area. The track in, it could not be called a road, was rugged. The 4WD ploughed through bulldust, bounced and swerved along the deep, corrugated, rutted track as it twists and turns for approx 50 kilometres.Scott drove fast as he said that is the best way to even out the corrugations, sort of skim over the top of them. Twice we had to stop to let Teresa out to be sick and once we stopped to change a blown tyre. It was a 5 hour drive from Kununurra.

As we came in site of the spectacular orange and grey banded domes Scott let us out to walk the last hour toward them as he drove ahead to prepare lunch. The experience of walking toward these structures as they slowly fill our vision and then overwhelm us as we stand next to them is an unforgettable encounter.

This is the last true wilderness in Australia. It is amazing that this incredible range was only revealed to the world by a TV team that did a documentary of the Kimberleys in 1983, that is not a typing error, it was only 29 years ago. Of course the Aboriginals had known the area for thousands of years. It was entrenched in their Dreamtime and was a sacred site. The pastoralist had been aware of it but were too busy just surviving in this harsh land to wonder about the uniqueness of it. By 1987 it was a world heritage site.

People look like ants walking along the track

We spent the rest of the day walking along tracks among these beehive shaped domes and into deep gorges. That night after a superb BBQ dinner of steak and chicken with salad and a glass of wine Scott lit a fire and we sat around exchanging stories and Scott told us of many of the Aboriginal legends and other characters that had, and some still do, live in the area. Then we rolled out our swags and slept under a blanket of a million stars.

Next day it was more walking through this surreal landscape the azure blue of the sky accentuating the shape and colour of the domes. The final gorge Scott took us to was Cathedral Gorge.

This was to be a moment that will live with me forever and was the highlight of my trip around Australia.

Scott had carried a didgeridoo with him and when we reached the end of the gorge it was just our small group. We sat in the sand around a small crystal clear pool and Scott climbed up to an over-hanging rock and placed the end of the old Aboriginal instrument into a hollow. The haunting sound echoed and hung around us in the still air, time also seemed to stand still. The walls of the gorge towered above us and the top was a blaze of fiery red were the sun touched it. I sat entranced and awed by the majesty of the moment.

Next trip in 2010 I was anticipating taking Jack on the tour with Scott. I searched around Kununurra to find him but was told he no longer did the trips and was now a DJ at one of the night clubs. The larger tourist operations now had taken over. I was determined to go back to visit the Bungles so I booked a flight in.

Bungle Bungle from the air

It was a spectacular flight over Lake Argyll and the famous Argyll diamond mine. We landed at a small air-strip near the Bungle formations and trekked in to them. The landscape had not changed it was still amazing with the orange and grey domes, so photogenic. Again the highlight was the walk into Cathedral Gorge. The difference was the number of people we shared the experience with. Bus tours, air flights and many more independent 4WD travellers have found this majestic place. I think it has been well marketed and has become a must-see on tourist bucket lists. Approx 70-80 people were at the end of Cathedral Gorge gazing around in awe at the splendour of nature.

Then magic happened again. Suddenly a group started to sing. Beautiful voices soared with that iconic Australian song “Waltzing Matilda” followed by “I still call Australia home”. All those people went silent and stood entranced as the words echoed and swirled around the rock walls. I shut my eyes and felt the magic. Spontaneous applause broke out when the song ended. I learnt that it was a Welsh choir group touring together.

The sun was setting as we flew back to Kununurra and lit the Kimberleys in a blaze of fire.

Categories: aboriginal history, australian travel, Bungle Bungle, National Parks, photos, travel | Tags: , , | 16 Comments

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16 thoughts on “Travel Themes : Parks

  1. Purnululu is truly a marvellous place to visit.

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  2. Your first experience sounds amazing. But, like a lot of places, the number of tourists have risen. It doesn’t seem to have impacted on your enjoyment, but I wonder if that is because you had the joy of that first incredible trip. I shall look into this though.

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    • The second trip was quite different but the scenery was still magnificent, but I will never forget that first trip.

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      • I have had a quick look into trips to the Bungle Bungles – my goodness they are expensive! I don’t think I shall be going there any time soon.

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        • Definitely expensive but back in 2005 it cost me only $300 for 2days and all meals. 2010 it was $600 each to fly in and spend a day walking then fly back as the sun set…

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  3. What an amazing gallery – thanks for sharing these photos!

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  4. Wow how lucky were you to fly in in a helicopter, that must’ve been an awesome sight…

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  5. I also was priveleged to fly over the Bungle Bungles. A few years ago I actually won a trip to Kunnunurra and part of the prize was a flight over the Bungle Bungles in an open sided helicopter. The walk in was just as inspiring and Cathedral Gorge has to be experienced to be believed. Thanks for bringing back the memories. 🙂

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  6. What an amazing place. that is what I love about these challenges…all the places you learn about

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  7. Oh, pommepal, I love this so much. What magical experiences you have had there, both times. I can almost hear the didgeridoo – beautifully written post, and those beehive-shaped domes are amazing.

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    • Of the many Parks in Australia this is one every one should get to. Thank you for the theme I look forward to the next one. We will be back on the road next week.

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  8. Fascinating, very nice texture!!! Cheers Nonoy Manga

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    • Thanks they are so unique, and because they can crumble when touched you are asked not to touch just look. They could be loved to death.

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