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Bungle Bungles in the wet season

PostPosted: Thu 01 Apr, 2021 10:24 pm
by deadwood
The Bungle Bungles are an interesting "mountain" range in Purnululu National Park in the east of the Kimberley region in Western Australia south of lake Argyle and the Ord river irrigation scheme. It is mostly renowned for the "beehive" rock formations around the edges. Access to the Bungle Bungles is normally via a rough dirt road off of the Great Northern Highway. In the dry season most visitors to the park are day trippers that visit the area around cathedral gorge. During the wet season, road access to the park is closed.
There is a walking trail in the Bungle Bungles that follows the normally dry creek bed of Piccaninny creek (surely due for a re-name) upstream to an area where you can base yourself for a few days to explore the further up side gorges. Willis's Walkabouts ( run a guided trip up the gorge in the wet season if there is sufficient numbers of people to make it viable. Although numbers were a few short due to COVID, and there were some anxious weeks beforehand wondering if we were going to be allowed into WA, we had the excellent opportunity to go there and experience this magnificent part of the country in February.
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Helicopter view of the elbow.

Because the road is closed, we were dropped into the Bungle Bungles by helicopter which makes this not a cheap trip, but all the more spectacular. We also had the whole park pretty much to ourselves.
When we arrived, although Piccaninny creek was flowing, the level wasn't high, and there wasn't water flowing over the waterfall in cathedral gorge either. After dropping off some additional food for later, we set up our first camp not too far upstream and then overnight it RAINED. The creek came up relatively high and was running so strong the next day that we couldn't progress upstream, so had to spend a day enjoying the torrent of water waiting for it to go down.
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After the rain.

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Piccaninny Creek flowing

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Heading upstream.

The trail upstream is normally in the creek bed, so in the wet season the trail becomes a mix of zig-zag back and forth across the creek with a bit of walking through the spinifex, wading when the water is shallow and calm enough and swimming when neither of the other two options are possible. Waterproofing of course is very important as it was sometimes necessary to float our packs across the creek.
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Wet season waterfall

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Base camp waterfall gently flowing

At the base camp location in the dry season there is no water fall and the pool is much smaller, so people can camp on the sand around it. We camped up much higher and drier.
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Narrow side gorge.

After a couple of days without rain spent on day trips exploring the side gorges, the rain returned. The first storm hit in the middle of the night, and once the rain stopped banging too loudly on the tent, there was a roar that sounded like an aircraft engine had started up next to the tent and the basecamp waterfall had properly come to life.
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Basecamp waterfall pumping.

Once again we were trapped on a virtual island unable to go up or downstream safely and sitting back enjoying nature at it's finest. There was a follow up storm in the morning that allowed us to see the repeat performance of the overnight deluge and all the black streaks down the cliffs became hosts to transient waterfalls.
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Piccaninny Creek looking impassable.

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Base camp waterfall.

To increase the odds of being able to be at the car park for the helicopter pickup on the right day, we headed back downstream early for a couple of days exploring closer to the pickup point. The creek was by now a lot calmer making for some splendid sunrise and sunset reflections.

To be continued...

Re: Bungle Bungles in the wet season

PostPosted: Thu 01 Apr, 2021 10:25 pm
by deadwood
Before we departed for this trip, I checked the museum of Australia's citizen science frogid project ( to see what frogs we could expect to encounter in the wet. To my surprise there were no frog recordings in the Bungle Bungles. Well now there are! We also took some photos of the frogs we saw, so without too much effort, there were 6 different frog species identified. I would encourage all bushwalkers to have the frogid app on their phone and contribute to science while out walking.
We were initially hesitant about a northern Australia walking trip in the wet season, but it was fantastic. Having seen the creek flowing and waterfalls with water in, I can't help but think the dry season in the Bungle Bungles would be disappointing now. Although there is the risk of untimely rain restricting the exploring of side gorges, seeing the water flowing was glorious. Apart from when the water was flowing dangerously fast, there was always somewhere for a swim multiple times a day and once up in the gorge, there was always some shade to be had. A big thanks to Willis's Walkabouts and our guide Cassie for the opportunity to see the country when few other people do.
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Sunset over the Bungles

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Sunrise over the Bungles

Re: Bungle Bungles in the wet season

PostPosted: Sat 24 Apr, 2021 7:19 pm
by biggbird
Lovely photos. One day we'll get there :)

Re: Bungle Bungles in the wet season

PostPosted: Sat 24 Apr, 2021 7:50 pm
by ofuros
Great time to be there with all that water flowing, thanks for sharing. 8)

Re: Bungle Bungles in the wet season

PostPosted: Sat 24 Apr, 2021 7:57 pm
by eggs
Thankyou so much for sharing this.

Re: Bungle Bungles in the wet season

PostPosted: Thu 21 Oct, 2021 6:28 pm
by cjhfield
Absolutely stunning photos!

I very much enjoyed your trip report.