The Bungle Bungles – Beauty In A Fragile Landscape

Last time, we finally saw the Bungle Bungles for the first time and checked out the extraordinary Mini Palms Gorge.

A Late “Discovery”

The Bungle Bungles were a well kept secret until 1983, when a film crew flew over the area in search of material for documentaries. The resulting documentary was shown around the world and interest in the Bungle Bungles exploded.

Purnululu National Park was declared and in 1991, Purnululu (Aboriginal word for sandstone) was listed on the World Heritage register.

Of course, local stockmen had known about this place for many years… and the Aboriginal people had lived here for over 40,000 years. So Purnululu wasn’t discovered, instead it became an instant “celebrity”… an overnight success.

Echidna Chasm – Breathe In!

One of the most famous gorges is Echidna Chasm. This chasm is at the Northern end of the Bungle Bungles. “Breathtaking” doesn’t even begin to describe it.

Bower bird's nest. Amongst others things, it had a 2 dollar coin and and a snake skin inside. Echinda Chasm, Bungle Bungles, Purnululu National Park.
Bower bird’s nest at Echidna Chasm. Amongst others things, it had a 2 dollar coin and and a snake skin inside!
Echidna Chasm, Bungle Bungles, Purnululu National Park.
Incredible colours in Echidna Chasm.

About 750m long and only about a metre wide in places, the walls rise up vertically about 200m. So you’re effectively walking through a giant slot in the rock.

It’s almost like a giant knife cut through the rock. A more scientific explanation is that the gorge was created by a creek cutting through the sandstone over millions of years. Although, I quite like the giant knife idea…

Echidna Chasm, Bungle Bungles, Purnululu National Park.
It looks like you’re walking towards a furnace.

The light was simply unbelievable. Slits of sunlight penetrate right down to the floor in places, light bouncing off the walls to give a rust-orange hue. It’s quite surreal.

In places, it looks like the gorge is on fire. The sunlight brings out the colours in the sandstone and the sun almost hurts your eyes in places. Quite simply, unbelievably beautiful.

Cathedral Gorge, A Mega Plunge Pool

Cathedral Gorge is at the Southern end of the Bungle Bungles. After a short drive, you’ll reach a carpark. This end of Purnululu has the classic beehive domes – the ones you always see in the photos. It’s quite different to the Northern end.

Beehive domes of the Bungle Bungles, Purnululu National Park.
Beehive domes dominate the Southern end near Cathedral Gorge.

From the carpark you follow a walking track along Piccaninny Creek. You come to an “intersection” where you can continue along the creek and go on a grand adventure to Piccaninny Gorge.

This is a 30km, 2 to 7 day hike so it’s way more than a casual day walk. You need to be self-sufficient and be an experienced hiker. You must register at the Visitors Centre before attempting this hike.

If you turn left here instead, you’ll head towards Cathedral Gorge. It’s an easy walk to the Gorge and again, absolutely spectacular. The gorge walls rise up about 200m and the walk just gets better and better as you move through the gorge.

Cathedral Gorge, Bungle Bungles, Purnululu National Park.
The Cathedral Gorge walk.
Cathedral Gorge, Bungle Bungles, Purnululu National Park.
Formidable cliffs tower over you on the walk to Cathedral Gorge.
Bungle Bungles, Purnululu National Park.
Following the creek on the Cathedral Gorge walk.

At the end is a humungous undercut amphitheatre where a waterfall tumbles down in the wet. Over millions of years, the swirling water has cut out the amphitheatre and formed what you see today.

Cathedral Gorge, Bungle Bungles, Purnululu National Park.
The enormous Cathedral Gorge amphitheatre.
Cathedral Gorge, Bungle Bungles, Purnululu National Park.
The scale of this place is unbelievable.
Cathedral Gorge, Bungle Bungles, Purnululu National Park.
A perfect place to sit down for a while and just take it all in.

In fact, Cathedral Gorge is an example of just how fragile the Bungle Bungles are. Once the protective coatings of the cyanobacteria and the iron oxide wears away, the sandstone is extremely soft and crumbly underneath. With more crowds arriving every year, the National Parks people are constantly coming up with inventive ways to keep the park open to tourists whilst protecting the fragile landscape. Not an easy task.

Heading Out

Too soon, it was time to pack up and leave. The Bungle Bungles are magnificent. They have a mysterious aura about them, very similar to Kata Tjuta and Uluru. Their majesty left us feeling a little overwhelmed and gave us perspective on how we’re all just tiny specks on this Earth, here for just a moment in time.

The video below gives you a glimpse of Spring Creek Track, the road out to the highway. Take it slowly, as there are plenty of blind crests… and crazy people driving at warp speed.

The Bungle Bungles are simply amazing. We’ll be back, that’s for sure. And next time we’ll stay for longer.

TourRadar offer a wide range of Purnululu tour deals here.

Next time we visit Lake Argyle and catch up with a friend we met on the Gibb River Road.

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