Kununurra- Wonderful wilderness in Western Australia
September 22nd- 24th
Where there is wilderness there is hope.
Hallelujah Western Australia! What a treat.
As soon as you cross the border into Western Australia you’re bombarded with majestic rock formations of such grand proportion you’re left dribbling in awe. For us, North-western Australia has the most beautiful and profoundly dramatic landscapes that we have so far encountered. Winding along this Kimberley road conjures up images of the grandeur of the Grand Canyon and wild vastness of Death Valley. The drive into Kununurra was one of the most visually pleasing we’d had since leaving home.
Grinning from ear to ear, we took the turn off down to Lake Argyle- the world’s largest manmade body of water. The Lake Argyle (Ord Dam) Wall is amazingly small when you consider that it alone holds in such a vast body of water (nine times the volume of Sydney Harbour). The lake is a sight to behold as you snake down towards the shore.
The prospect of frolicking in an immense shark and croc-free area, for the first time since Dunk Island, had us out of the car in a flash. After swimming around and around and around the swimming area, looking out from every possible lookout point, spilling out of the car, to the most breathtaking view of the lake, at the spillway, and generally oohing and aaahing at this colossal body of water, and the river flowing from it……we headed on to Kununurra.
We were keen to check out Kununurra- being the Kimberley’s youngest town and all. It was only built in the ’60s, and its funky, relaxed, tin-dominated architecture reflected this. Kununurra managed to surpass the jaded uneasy feel of some of the territory towns….and also dished up the goods, with a sumptuous lakeside camping spot. We literally mean “lakeside”. Our boat calmly sat in the water only 3 paces from our tent ready for action any second. Utopia…….but for the mosquitoes. These WA mozzies are the visually intimidating Arnie Schwarzenegger variety, they make the prospect of bumping into Mike Tyson in a dark alley seem somewhat inviting. Fortunately, they only leave an irritating sting after they’ve chewed their mouthful. Gentle giants……but enough to drive you madly into the tent after the last bites of dinner have been hurriedly ingested. Mosquito coils have proven to be the only effective repellent for these resilient guys, that or a machete.
Lake Argyle was built to service the Ord River irrigation scheme. Some 35 km below the lake a second dam was built, the diversion dam, to direct the water on to the various irrigation areas. With the Diversion Dam waterway stretching before us, we decided to cruise back up the Ord river towards Lake Argyle in the boat. This expanse of water was reputed to be quite a sight to behold.
The surrounding rocks were high and varying colours of red, brown and yellow, as we puttered along. At times they swept down sharply into narrow vertical gorges. The sun was bright, adding an intense clarity to the imposing landforms. The crystal clear water was an incredible leafy green colour. You could make out the weeds swaying to and fro in the current as if to some ethereal music that they could only hear, baby turtles and archer fish darting between them and the twisted yet beautiful forms of submerged trees. Giant clumps of grass floated freely on the surface, playing their own version of musical chairs….never in any one place for more than a minute. They proved to be poor markers of good fishing spots because when we went back, they’d invariably transferred elsewhere!
The sun began setting as we headed back to camp. It was quiet as could be (bar the dull hum of our motor) We did encounter some Japanese canoeists on the way home. What a great way to spend a few days. “Hello!!!”- we waved amicably as the waves from our boat caused their canoe to rock dangerously from side to side. They clutched their paddles tightly and smiled through clenched teethSorry!
The famous Bungle Bungles were to be our next destination. On the drive out we did stop in briefly at the Zebra Rock Gallery, a gallery and workshop that as you have no doubt guessed, sells Zebra Rock. The only known worldwide deposit of this beautiful striped rock. The deposit of Zebra Rock is in fact under the surface of Lake Argyle. We spoke to the proprietor who sadly informed us that the resource was finite and on the home stretch. Clutching assorted zebraish presents, we psyched ourselves up for the afternoons’ hot drive to the Bungles.
The next vivid sight was the chained fence of Purnululu National Park. The Bungles Bungles lay a further 50 km and 2 hours along a bumpy and fairly rough 4WD track. Thank you, lord!!!!!!! At last—-a road that required some thought, not for caravans and hundreds of coaches. On the “4WD ONLY” sign, an obviously pissed off caravaner had crudely scrawled “83% OF PEOPLE WANTING TO ACCESS THIS PARK HAVE CARAVANS”, yet nothing is stopping these people from unhitching their vans and driving their cars in for the day or booking into one of the small 4WD tours available!
Herein lay the dilemma again, right before our eyes. Another beautiful wilderness area, whose true beauty lay in its isolation and inaccessibility, with the pressures of tourism knocking down the door to develop and expand. You actually have to work a little to get into the Bungle Bungles as the road stands (albeit only 2 hours). The park is not signposted, the road not bitumen, the resorts not present, the Rangers not barking out rules as soon as you enter the park. No brassy shops with ice creams and plasticine Bungle Bungle replications, just a simple self-registration bay, a pit toilet and a map of the park with suggested walks. We like this place!
The approach to the Bungles was magnificent. The twilight making our first glimpse of her formations all the more magical. This place is wondrous. Spinifex covered hills folding over each other and then giving way to the spectacular bluffs of sandstone that make up this magnificent range.
The campsite yet another treat…..no numbered sites, no generators just some pit toilets, bush campsites and a funky old”find-me-if-you-can-shower” that was hidden up a pathway for those keen enough to scavenge it out, and blissfully warm from the day’s sun.
No tent. No clothes. No bug spray………… No need.
We lay down on the mattress and slept.