Turkey Creek, the Bungle Bungles, Halls Creek and Fitzroy Crossing.
Turkey Creek (now called Warmun)
We finally tore ourselves away from beautiful, fascinating Kununurra. A short hop down the Great Northern Highway brought us to Turkey Creek which is now called Warmun after a local Aborigine tribe. Just doesn't have the same ring to it, does it?
The caravan park at Turkey Creek is part of the Road House. On arrival around midday we were surprised to find it already quite full. By dusk it was overflowing. The word 'overflowing' reminds me that there is only one W.C. for us males, plus two showers and a urinal. Just thought I should mention that. Might be fun in the morning especially since it doesn't flush properly. The caravans are packed in like sardines; we don't even have room to extend our awning, though to be truthful I don't care. Our neighbours on both sides are very nice and we're only here for three days. The water pressure varies between poor and none existent.
The temperature is appreciably lower than at Kununurra and we haven't needed the air conditioner at all. Consequently we all have our windows wide open. The only problem with that is that nobody can make a sound without the neighbours hearing it, due to the close proximity of the 'vans. I just hope our neighbours sleep very soundly. Our caravan has been known to reverberate substantially in the wee small hours, somewhere in the region of 4.5 on the Richter Scale. And that's only the snoring.
We had booked a road tour into the Bungle Bungle Range, though perhaps 'road' is the wrong word to use. There are also helicopter flights into the Bungles from here but, much as we'd both love to go, the price is more than we're prepared to pay.
As it transpired, our journey into the Bungles was postponed because I came down with a man-cold. What is a man-cold? In some ways it resembles a woman-cold but is many times more severe. You may have noticed that women are able to continue working and performing their normal duties when suffering from a cold. This is irrefutable evidence that the suffering is inconsequential. A man-cold, on the other hand, requires bed rest and much attention and coddling. Unfortunately, because women are unable to experience the suffering and misery of a man-cold, they believe it is no worse than a woman-cold and thus pour scorn upon the superior sex. A cross we have to bear, fellas, so let's do it with stoicism.
The Bungle Bungle Range
Our tour bus departed from the Turkey Creek Roadhouse at around 05:30 for the three hour drive into the Bungles. It would be another half hour before the sun rose and it was quite chilly. Apart from ourselves there was just one other couple on the tour.
The four wheel drive bus took us south on the Great Northern Highway for about fifty five kilometres and then turned down a dirt road for a further fifty three kilometres. When the bus wasn't stirring up bulldust into choking clouds behind us it was crawling down steep creek banks and struggling through flowing water over unseen rocks on creek beds.
We stopped for a drink and to stretch our legs. Pam is struggling with one of those annoying little fruit drinks where you use the straw to puncture the carton - if you ever separate the straw from its wrapping. Driver, Matthew, is distributing biscuits.
As the picture above shows, we stopped for a welcome drink and a biscuit along the way.
Matthew's responsibility for us ended on arrival at the East Kimberley Tours visitor centre in the Purnululu (pronounced perna-lulu) National Park. He introduced us to our guide for the day . . .
. . . a terrific personality called Wendy.
Wendy proved to be full of fun and very knowledgeable about the Bungles and the flora and fauna in the Purnululu Park. She was also an exceptionally good driver, both on and off the bitumen. By the end of the day we were all very fond of her.
Wendy drove us first to Echidna Chasm where we walked through a narrow passage between towering, vertical cliffs. Oddly the cliffs were not solid rock but a very hard conglomerate consisting of rocks up to about the size of a tennis ball bonded in a 'cement' which, I think, included silica. I should listen harder.
Due to the nature of the terrain, Pam opted to guard the bus while the rest of us walked to, and through, the Echidna Chasm.
This outcrop was on the approach to Echidna Chasm. The larger hollows are caused by lightning strikes.
The derivation of the name Bungle Bungle is uncertain. Have I covered this before? I've read several theories, none of which seem even remotely plausible. One suggests it might have arisen through confusion with the spinifex grass that grows in this area which is known as Bundle Bundle. All these double words are Aboriginal.
Here's me in Echidna Chasm. You can see how close together the cliff faces are - they tower up vertically for hundreds
of feet and the light shining down their orange coloured faces gave the photograph its reddish tint.
Perhaps you can also see the way the walls are made up of small stones 'cemented' together.
We left Echidna Chasm and returned to the visitor centre for a very nice lunch after which we set off to see the Bungle 'beehives'. (An echidna, which is found in this area, is an animal similar to a hedgehog though in appearance only. It is an egg-laying mammal related to the platypus.)
The Colours of the Bungles.
What causes the alternate orange and dark horizontal stripes? Well, if you think back 360 millions years, a large sedimentary rock mass was being laid down by 'braided rivers', remember? Due to changing environmental circumstances, through some periods there was clay in the sediment and in others, little or none. As more sediment was laid down the lower layers were put under increasing pressure and eventually turned into sandstone. Now just bear with me, I know all this stuff is very basic.
Later, massive changes occurred which uplifted all this sandstone to form mountain ranges. Fractures occurred in the sandstone as it was pushed up, so naturally when everything settled down and wind and water continued their process of erosion, channels were worn where the fractures had occurred, dividing up the mass of rock into fragments. As erosion continued the beehive shapes began to form.
Okay, okay, I'm getting there. So now we have beehive shaped mountains forming which have alternating layers of high clay content and low clay content. High clay content retains water, low clay content is porous and the water drains away.
A bunch of striped Bungle domes.
Now comes the interesting part. An organism called cyanobacteria is very comfortable living on the surface of moist sandstone, but it can't get a foothold on the low clay sandstone because it drains and dries out too quickly. Okay so far? Not really rocket science, is it?
Now we have horizontal stripes of cyanobacteria growing between layers of dry sandstone. The cyanobacteria appears dark grey or black. The exposed surface of the dry sandstone oxidises to appear orange. So, there you have the stripes, but they're only skin deep. Cut into either and you'd find the near-white colour of the sandstone just below the surface. That's how you can spot a recent lightning strike, the resulting scar is white.
Here we both are with some more 'beehives' behind us. We had just left the magnificent Cathedral Gorge amphitheatre.
Wendy pointed out a strange phenomenon. Recently the termites have started building their homes up the sides of the beehives instead of mounds resting on the ground in the customary manner. It gave the beehives the appearance of having had a crack plastered up.
These termites built their homes with a view to increasing the resale value.
Location, location, location. Hauling the shopping up there is hard work, though.
Of course, in one day we hardly scratched the surface of this unique World Heritage listed park. It was, however, enough to teach us that this fragile environment is well worth protecting. Thankfully the environment itself provides the best protection in that it requires a four-wheel-drive vehicle to access it and as long as people visit on an organised tour such as the one we were on, the well trained and dedicated tour guides will ensure no damage results. Those that choose a fixed wing or helicopter air tour will see everything from a vantage point that will not damage the environment. Hopefully those that drive themselves in will only make the commitment because they are already sold on the principle that that this area is sacred.
We left the Turkey Creek Roadhouse with some relief and travelled on to the town of Halls Creek where we found the caravan park very basic. In fact, the town was very basic. By now Pam was feeling pretty awful having caught the man-cold from me. I suggested staying over until she felt up to travelling but she was horrified at the suggestion and insisted, in her own inimitable style, that we move on as soon as the sun rose. Well, we did get away the next morning but the sun hadn't waited for us.
The journey to Fitzroy Crossing was taken gently, for these days we have the rising fuel prices in the forefront of our minds. By cutting our towing speed to 75 k.p.h. and with the aid of a favourable breeze, we managed to save $25 in the 650 kilometres between Kununurra and Fitzroy Crossing.
Fitzroy Crossing is a small, mainly Aborigine town not dissimilar to a hundred others. It has a handful of shabby shops and the usual black people sitting around in the shade of the trees and around the shops.
Let me put it this way: On driving around we weren't struck by any overwhelming desire to come and live here. The town exists to service local mines and pastoral stations. Tourism also brings in money though the Information Centre's own literature states,
The town is probably best known as a wayside stop for travellers heading either west, east or somewhere in between.
The permanent population of Fitzroy Crossing numbers around 1,500 and the town is situated on the west bank of the Fitzroy River.
Some residents of Fitzroy Crossing sit in the shade of trees all day, others outside the shops. A few worked inside the shops which the tribe owns. A taxi shuttles between the villages and the shops. At least ten dogs roamed free.
In stark contrast, just across the river on the east bank is the Fitzroy River Lodge and Caravan Park. On entering the grounds it feels as if you have driven into a well-to-do golf club with green manicured grass and large, shady trees. The reception area has a bar and restaurant as well as its own tourist information desk. Behind the reception building is the accommodation lodge which has a swimming pool which we are free to use. In the middle of the park is a low, grassy hill upon which the facilities block stands. All around the foot of the hill are caravans on the spacious sites, rather like peasants' cottages clustered around a medieval castle. There are petrol and diesel pumps at the reception area though we found cheaper fuel in the town. The bar has happy hour between five and six when you can buy a can of cold beer for $2. Unbelievably this park's fees are lower than those at Turkey Creek where conditions were pretty appalling.
A section of the park looking down from 'Mount Latrine'.
Fitzroy is a 'dry' town in that take-away alcohol sales are banned to prevent the Aborigines blowing all their welfare money on 'grog'. The purpose is to ensure the children are fed and to combat alcohol-related violence. I asked the barmaid at the caravan park if I could buy a cask of wine to take back to the caravan. She said she wasn't allowed to sell it to me. In the same bar were several Aborigines, certainly none too sober, being served alcohol by the same barmaid.
Pronounced Geeky, this gorge cut out by the Fitzroy River is not far from town. It is similar to the Chamberlain River Gorge (page 71) in that the river stops flowing in the dry season but the gorge is so deep that it never dries up. If anything, the Geikie Gorge is even more beautiful than the Chamberlain Gorge.
The boat that is used to cruise the gorge is quite unusual; it comes in three segments which couple together rather like railway carriages. The twin outboard motors are at the rear where the captain sits. On our trip there were only enough passengers to fill two segments so the third was left behind.
Two segments of our cruise boat. Imagine what a headache it must be for the captain (who steers from the rear)
with a third segment added to the front. Having a flat bottom, it tends to skid around on the water.
The captain needed two assistants on the dock to come alongside.
The gorge was full of fresh water crocodiles (or 'freshies') which are smaller than their salt water counterparts ('salties') and tend not to eat tourists, not even the German ones who seem to have a death wish. The captain asked one little girl to count how many we saw and she reckoned we'd seen twenty eight.
Hello, trust me, I'm here to help you.
The gorge walls were very interesting in that the height the water had reached during the 'wet' was clearly marked by lime deposits. It appeared light grey. Down near the water the lime deposit ended and a brown colour took over. This marked the water level when the river flow had ceased. After that, evaporation had lowered the level a little more.
The colours of the Kimberley showing the high water mark.
And so we say farewell from Fitzroy Crossing and from page 73 of this never-ending tome. I'll leave you with this thought: In each of the W.C.s in this beautiful caravan park there is a notice on the wall.
Please lower the seat before leaving to keep frogs out of the water.
Can you imagine such a sign in London, New York, Berlin or Paris? In Paris, of course, it would have an entirely different meaning.
Footnote: This re-working of Page 73 was completed on 24th June 2013. It conforms to HTML5 and CSS level 3.