Another perfect morning with the sun shining inside the camper trailer. It was an easy morning with a quick pack up as we had stayed hooked up to the car last night. Another big day awaits and we have decided that we are going to aim for the Bungle Bungles tonight for camp instead of Home valley or Elquestro.
We continued on the Karunji Track toward the Gibb River Road and within 200 meters the decision to stop the night was justified. We had a dry river crossing with a collapsed back followed by some really large washed out ruts that were deep enough to tip a car or trailer over. Low range and first gear was in order so the car could slowly negotiate ensuring each wheel was placed in the right spot. This seemed to be the order for the rest of the drive out. A couple of times we lost the track and relied on the digital maps to point us in the right direction. Eventually we made it out onto the Gibb River Rd right at the most iconic photographic crossings in Australia being the Pentecost River with the Cockburn Ranges in the background. Spoilt we are, as people from all over Australia talk about the sheer beauty and magnificence of the Cockburn Ranges of which they view from the Gibb River Rd. We had just driven along the base of range over the past two days with its ever presence just to our left and seen parts that most people will never venture to see. Yep – spoilt!
We played around the Pentecost crossing watching cars, trailers and photographers all with big smiles traversing the ford to the other side. I decided I would show Kathy a view of the Cockburn Ranges and Pentecost River that you can only see from a vantage point up the Gibb River Rd about 20 kms past the crossing. We drove up, parked and admired the view that is shared by those only traveling west to east. I noticed that I had phone coverage so I sent Emily a text wishing here well for school camp only to be shocked at the sudden and quick reply. She was on her iPad at school so we were able to exchange a couple of messages back and forth. Back down to the Pentecost River for a few more crossing with Kathy on the west side with my camera in hand trying to capture the perfect photo. Unfortunately it was a busy time of day and we couldn’t get a clear shot without other vehicles in the pictures but still I got to drive and tow across the crossing four more times.
By 10.30 a.m., it was time to head for camp. A long drive to the Bungle Bungles was to be had but first we had to drive another 50 km or so of corrugated roads to the end of the Gibb River. The road was in really bad condition compared to three years ago and it did feel good to be on bitumen again.
The journey south officially started on turning right onto The Great Northern Highway toward Halls Creek. Apart from a detour into the Bungles everything from here is heading in the direction of home. We turned off to drive the 53 kilometers into the National Park where we were treated to more badly corrugated roads that shook us continually for the entire trip. The drive in took about an hour and half and after the mornings drive and playing on the Gibb I was exhausted. My concentration capacity was well and truly depleted. Listening to Kathy with wows and oohs on seeing the ranges, landscapes and mountains was a good driving force. On paying our registration and camp fees we were told that fires were now banned in the park and the fire pits had been removed. Ripped off. I was looking forward sitting around a fire at night. Never mind we found a good camp spot.
Day 2 in the Bungles saw us head off to do a couple of hikes into Echinda Chasm and the Mini Palms walk. In all an easy 7.5 km of hiking for the morning to see the amazing sights that the Bungle Bungles are. We climbed to a lookout and overlooked the Osmond Ranges to our left and on reading the information board was amazed that they have been dated at 1.6 billion years old. How do we understand that length of time. Back at camp it was time to catch up on some washing and sorting of the vehicle and clothing. The nights are now getting cold so some clothes can go away and the winter ones can come out for the journey home. A very relaxing day.
Day 3 saw us awake before 6 am again so it was breakfast and coffee before heading off to look at t he southern end of the Bungle Bungles. We drove down and check out the other two camp grounds and some of the good sites within them before heading around to the airfield where Kathy wanted to watch a helicopter doing the take off and landings. I was secretly hoping she would shout herself a short flight just for the experience of being in the chopper with no doors on. To my surprise Kathy had arranged a price for the two of us to do a 42 minute flight over the Bungles right up to the giant domes. My god the nerves and vertigo kicked in before I even got off the ground. So after waiting for half an hour our chopper landed and it was our time for a flight. The wind was blowing and I could feel the chopper getting buffeted from side to side and on looking out I was hoping that I wouldn’t fall out but in all it was an incredible experience. The views form the air of the Bungle ranges was simply stunning and I don’t know the words to describe what we saw. An informative flight detailing so much about the history and formation of landscape in conjunction with the experience making a moment that will never be forgotten.
Back on the land it was time for us to drive around to hike into Cathedral Chasm and around the mounds and springs. It was around midday and the sun was pounding down on us but we still had the cool southerly breeze blowing across giving relief. The hike in and out was peaceful’ relaxing and breathtaking. It is a shame that our time in the Bungles must end but it has been a time that won’t be forgotten. Back at camp we secured a few things easy for the next day’s trip down the Tanami Road across the desert.