59. HELLO THE BUNGLE BUNGLES... and the Crampervan looses a wheel!...

Hello The Bungle Bungles!!! Prepare to be amazed. I first feel the need to comment on just what a fantastic name this place has, having said that ‘the bungle bungles’ or ‘the bungles’ isn’t it’s the park’s official name. Purnululu National Park is the Aboriginal name this amazing place goes by and if you can bare the journey into the national park, you will not be disappointed with what it has to show you. 
The access to the national park is tipped as one of Australia’s worst roads (if ‘a road’ is what you can call it). It’s essentially 33 miles of monster corrugations, bumps, twists and turns, with handfuls of creek crossings thrown in for good measure (all were dry except for one, due to the time of year). Pre entering, L and I had been quite hopeful having heard that the road into the Bungles had just been graded two weeks ago. What  luck we thought, a freshly flattened track for a smooth drive in. Oh how we were wrong! You see in only two weeks the road condition had returned to being the roughest we’d experienced to date. I’ve mentioned corrugated roads in previous blog posts but not gone into much detail. It’s impossible to exaggerate the traversing of a corrugated road. Imagine a corrugated tin roof, replace the tin with gravel or bull dust (soil so dry its dust) and increase the height of the corrugations to around 20cm. This is your road surface and it will feel like you’re driving over a particularly bad cattle grid, only it wont be over in a matter of seconds, it just continues.

It took L and I 2h30 minutes to travel the 33 miles into the Park. 15 minutes of this was spent releasinthe now dangling spare wheel and rehousing it somewhere inside the Crampervan. A less than ideal situation. The  Bungle corrugations had been the final straw for the spare wheel bracket which we noted had originally broken a weld somewhere along the Plenty highway. Further corrugations in the Keep River N.P had broken a second weld leaving just a single weld supporting the whole weight of the vibrating wheel. This had finally given way in the Bungles. Having not had the bracket immediately re welded after the second break, L and I had identified with certainty that the last weld would give up at some point and most likely on a corrugated road. Given the position of the spare wheel, if it fell off we’d almost certainly run over it, which most likely wouldn’t end too well. As an interim fix, we’d tied the wheel onto the bull bar with a rope. The idea being that when the final weld broke at least one of us would see the wheel drop but it would still remain securely suspended from the van. This would give us enough time to pull over. 

The above had happened in a text book fashion. A couple of fellow motorists on their way out of the Bungles slowed to ask if we needed any help. The spare wheel had become another piece of the Crampervan’s interior furniture, it wasn’t ideal and would mean that every time we pulled up somewhere the first ting we had to do was drag the wheel out of the back before we were able to get in. One thing I’ve yet to mention about outback travel is the unique club you’ll find yourself in. L and I named it the one finger wave, a simple lifting of the index finger to all oncoming motorists. It was after leaving Mount Isa in Queensland that we first spotted this almost unnoticeable gesture and the one finger wave had continued throughout the whole of Northern Territory and now into Western Australia. Both L and I wondered how far down the west coast the one finger wave club would continue, we’ll let you know.

The area the public are permitted to venture into the Bungles is but a fraction of the park’s over all size. I’m sure there are some real gems well hidden from the public but what you can access is truly awesome. There are two campsites one in the north of the park and the other in the south. Unfortunately for L’s Yorkshire pockets there is no free camping within the park. You have to pay for entry and pay again for every night you camp. WA National parks camping fees are not the meagre $3-30 pp that they were in NT, they’re $13pp. The southern area of the park has the dramatic features of the bee hive domes. This was where we headed first. It was at this point that we also realised the gas bottle was empty, incredibly reminiscent of Fraser Island, we’d stocked up and checked everything bar giving the gas a shake. We hurriedly made an attempt to fry off some chicken as this was the only real thing that we were at risk of losing. Sadly the propane didn’t last quite long enough. The chicken stared back at us unappetisingly from the frying pan, it was only part cooked… we were going to have to make some friends tonight, some friends with a gas bottle. 

The alarm sounded but we snoozed for another 15 minutes before making ourselves vertical. It was 5:00am! No this wasn’t a mistake (I can hear your thoughts). We were making the most of the day light and we had been most days for a number of weeks now. Along with the quarantine restrictions, crossing into WA from NT also required that we travel back in time by 1h30mins. Depressingly it was now dark by 5:30pm and light super early each morning. As we drove out the campsite, the sun was just casting the first rays of light over the national park, illuminating the stunning rock formations as it has done for thousands of years previous. I think it’s impossible not to be in awe of the stunning colours and shapes of the domes as you stand amongst them. 

The walks weren't anything too strenuous, as I say, the public are only permitted to access a small percentage of the area. That said, you can ask for permission to go on a multi day walk up the main gorge called Piccaninny Gorge. The main draw cards for the southern end of the bungles are: The Domes trail, Cathedral gorge, Piccaninny creek look out and The Window. Having started 'bungling’ super early meant that we’d smashed all 4 walks (approx 7 miles in total) before mid day. Our efforts to beat the heat of the sun had lasted until just before 9:00am after which it was baking hot! Making it back to the van by noon meant we were back at the southern campsite soon after. This was good for a few reasons. The first being because we were both now in one of those super lazy moods where you have zero energy for absolutely anything and all you really want to do is lie down and snooze. After gaining enough energy to sling the hammock around two trees we realised that we had a problem, we hadn’t bought a double hammock. Neither of us were willing to compromise when it came to who should get to relax in the hammock and who would draw the short straw with one of our less than comfortable folding wooden chairs. We managed to both squeeze into the hammock without hearing any rips from the fabric. 

Added to the spare wheel trauma of the previous day, we’d noticed that the fridge cabinet had been moving around “a lot more than usual” on the drive in. The other cabinets that make up the kitchen had received a re-screwing to the body of the van a week or so ago because all their self tappers had worked loose. It would seem the same had happened for the fridge side. (This was the second reason it was good to have the afternoon free.) After managing to muster enough energy to get out the hammock L set about the arduous task of re-screwing the fridge unit back to the van body. Upon inspection it became clear that all of the screws had fallen out, this explained why the whole fridge unit and cabinets had been moving around so crazily over the corrugations. As is the way with allot of things, rectifying this was easier said than done. The brackets that fix the back of the fridge cabinet to the van are behind the fridge itself. The fridge is so snug in the cabinet that the top, side and a small back panel have to be unscrewed first, before the fridge can then be teased out. This we learned when at our Brisbane Workaway when we made a few changes in this area (removing the microwave for more cupboard space). At the time we weren’t to know that this would be a worthwhile exercise so as to gain that knowledge which was now needed after the corrugated roads had taken their toll on the unit. 
L, a man of many tools, has a van tool box. In fact he has four. All full of things he proclaims will be of use for most situations. One item missing from his many toolboxes was a stubby phillips screwdriver. This he needed for the fridge unit because his assortment of regular sized screwdrivers, were useless for this job. L, avid tool collector since primary school age, furniture maker to the royal family and the pope, now found himself in an unfamiliar situation... In need of borrowing someone else’s tools! 
The third reason that it was great to spend all afternoon at the campsite was because it meant that we had the time to set up the Crampervan’s awning! The awning had been taking up a heap of space in the under seat storage since we’d set off from Sydney. We’d both been wondering when we’d next get around to using the awning, having only set it up once since the start of our trip. Cue that all important “extra luxury” living space! 

The northern end of the park has less of the bee hive domes like those found in the southern end of the park. Instead there’s more of the gorge type walks that Australian’s appear to love. Of particular interest to L and I was Echidna Chasm, or Enchilada / Chinchilla Chasm as I’d taken to calling it due to not being able to either remember or pronounce the real name. Enchilada chasm is an ever narrowing opening in the rock carved out by water over thousands of years. Like in an Indiana Jones movie or a Dan Brown novel, if you happen to be there just as the sun moves directly overhead, you will get to experience the light cascading down the rock and illuminating the walls in brilliant orange. The lady at the Bungles info centre had given us this advise and told us 11:20am would be about the right time to see the spectacle. We took her advice and expected there to be an overwhelming throng of people squeezed into the Chinchilla’s narrow passages. We knew it wouldn’t have just been us that the lady gave her words of wisdom to, so when we arrived to find ourselves not tripping over tourists, we were pleasantly surprised.

Earlier in the day a familiar sign in the north of the park caught our attention, “Stone Henge”. The map showed a small circular walk with a recommended time of just 15 minutes so out from the Cramper we jumped, it would be our last walk of the day after having done Echidna Chasm and Mini Palms walk. Much to our disappointment ‘stone henge’ turned out to be nothing more than a small loop walk with signs detailing the native plants, trees and their traditional medicinal uses (nothing our bush tucker book hadn’t already told us). Absolutely no stones, no henge, no structure of any description and no explanation as to why the name stone henge was given to this walk! Amused and somewhat perplexed we made our way to the northern campsite, choosing pitch 89 where then showered alfresco before going to watch the sunset from the nearest hill.

L and I found a special date soon approaching. The one year anniversary since we sold our house, packed up our things and began our adventures! We couldn’t have predicted where we would end up but we certainly didn’t imagine it to be…Wolfe Creek (have you seen the film!?)….UP NEXT!