Travels Downunder – A Reminiscence: Part 17

Our travellers had been admiring a Boab tree in the town of Derby…

Leaving Derby we continued our clockwise circumnavigation of this amazing country and, still in the Kimberley region of Western Australia, we headed eastwards passing through Fitzroy Crossing where we stopped overnight, then on past Halls Creek and eventually arriving at Turkey Crossing. We spent three nights here as it is the nearest place from which to venture off-road into the Purnululu National Park. This area is difficult to get into and should only be attempted in a four wheel drive vehicle or by air. We did witness a young lad trying his luck in a small saloon car but he only got a few hundred yards down the track before he ruptured his fuel tank and had to be towed out.

Purnululu is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site where you will find the enchantingly named Bungle Bungles, a range which covers an area of about 175 square miles and is made up of hundreds of huge strange dome shaped towers which look like the old traditional conical beehives. They are striped horizontally with orange and grey layers made up of different types of rock and sandstone. There are also many chasms and gorges which are spectacular. The traditional owners of the area are the Gija aboriginal people who have been in the area for 20,000 years, yet amazingly it was unknown to the rest of the world until as recently as 1982 when it was “discovered” by a documentary film crew who were making a film about the Kimberley region.

We left our caravan at Turkey Creek and set off to drive in, and after quite a difficult drive, including a few creek crossings where I had to get out and wade in to check the depth, we eventually arrived into the central area. We walked some trails and discovered Echidna Chasm and Cathedral Gorge and then came across a helicopter which was offering rides to view everything from the air. We decided it was too good an opportunity to miss so we paid up and went up. The helicopter was tiny, just room for the pilot and us two passengers. There were no doors on it and we were very glad we were securely strapped in. Very exciting. It was a very long and tiring day and by the time we got back to our caravan at Turkey Creek we were exhausted, but elated.

Leaving Turkey Creek we headed further on up the Great Northern Highway and reached the town of Kununara, where we stopped for a couple of nights. It is the last place of any size before you come to the border with the Northern Territory. When we crossed that border and entered the Territory we had now been to every State and Territory in the country. First stop was the town of Katherine which is at the junction of two major highways. There is a a huge river gorge at Katherine and we took a boat trip down through the gorge which was once again full of spectacular scenery. Some years previously there had been a huge flood when the Katherine River rose by over 20 metres and the whole town was flooded. Reportedly there were crocodiles swimming down the Main Street past the local supermarket.