Day 7/35 – Part 1/2

Bungle Bungles National Park

The sun rises at 05:15 and the first idea was to be in Bungle Bungles/Purnululu National Park around this time. But after some calculation it’s clear to me that that is not possible. First I’ll have to drive 225 kilometers to get to the dirt road that is going into the park. During the day this would take 2 hours, but in darkness it quickly becomes 3. Cows, horses, kangaroos and wallabies one can encounter on the road.

Then follows the 53 km dirt road to the entrance of the park. This will also take 2 hours and is not a road to drive in darkness, in particular for this first time. 5 hours driving to be in the park at 05:15 means starting the drive at 0:00. That is madness. Especially because I can not oriëntate myself beforehand. Besides, I won’t see anything of my surroundings which will be nice for certain. Better to ’sacrifice’ photography in the morning and drive as much as possible during daylight.

Ow and there is a one and a half hour time difference between Northern Territories and Western Australia. Here it’s 1.5 hours earlier, the same time as in Singapore.

At first I set the alarm at 04:00, but I can’t sleep because of the heat. I could use the airco but that will make noise. In the end I set the alarm at 05:00. Around that time I finally fall asleep and am startled as it sounds. When I open the curtains the sun has already risen. Better to go out then.

I am very curious about the dirt road towards the park. Have heared a couple of horror stories, but these last years the road seems to have been improved. There are virtually no facilities in the park and most certainly no gas station. Half way I find a gas station and I fill up the tank for the last time. After a few hours driving I find the turnoff. There is a large sign with warning among one to release 10% of the air from your tires. Hmmm, at first I don’t like that idea at all. What I let go I can’t get back in easily.

The road is not that bad in the beginning, but soon it becomes a wash board. The whole car rattles like an idiot. Slow driving is the name of the game. This is going to take a lot of time. It looks much like a road I once took in Death Valley and broke off, because of the very sharp stones overthere. Here that’s not the case. Better to release some air then. Maybe that will help. But how much is 10%? In the end I release 5 seconds of air from the tires (but I count them very fast (-; ). It looks like this is better. The rattling feels less sharp now.

I encounter many cars even with trailers. If they can get here it shouldn’t be that difficult should it?

After a while I start wondering where all those difficult parts are. I really would like to drive a more technically challenging part. I am sick of the rattling.

Soom after I have to cross the first river. The gears has 4 positions: 2-wheel, 4-wheel, 4-wheel-locked and 4-wheel-low-gear-locked. That last one is for water and for instance snow when you need a lot of force. 4-wheel is for off-road and that other is somewhere in between. The manual advices to use locked differential and to go in the water slowly, max 70 centimeters deep. This goes well. Others follow and all of them are just one car length wide.

Then I have to cross a much wider part that is submerged. The car in front of me stops and turns around. This part is around 3 car lengths wide, but I can not clearly see the end of it. I follow the same procedure and enter the water. Halfway I suddenly stop. If I apply throttle I can hear the wheels go under water but nothing happens. Ai. Let’s try the other gear. This one gets grip and happily for me I can drive out of the water.

Somewhat later I know what I have done wrong. Just before I stalled I saw a bow wave. Despite the fact that I though I drove in very slowly, it apparently was still a bit too fast. I used 4-wheel-low-gear-locked and think that I applied a little too much throttle when I stalled. Then it looses grip. With 4-wheel-locked it drove straight out. From now on I am using this gear and that goes well.

Around 10:30 I arrive at the visitor center. After signing up I can start exploring. The only walk where the light is suitable this time is Echidna Chasm, a very small canyon. After driving 27 kilometers I am at the entrance. It’s very hot. The canyon itself you reach via a river bed covered with large pebbles. The canyon was made by water that eroded a crack in the rock. This is exactly the same way as the slot canyons in Arizona were created like the beautiful Antelope Canyon.

The wall consists of rond pebbles that have been glued to each other. It’s a sediment of an earlier river. The pebbles dropped at the bottom and were covered by sediment. Thereafter everything was converted under high pressure to rock that has been lifted and is now being eroded by wind and water. Interesting.

The canyon itself has a length of only a couple of hundred meters. Very narrow at the top and large rocks are stuck at several places after they have fallen from the top. This photo ’looks’ up at an angle to rocks of around 1-2 meters diameter.

Echidna Chasm

At the entrance there are warnings to not stay unnecessary under these rocks, because they can still come down. Apart from that, new rocks can come down as well.

Echidna Chasm

I am trying for quite some time to get the right composition. There is not much space and people have to pass regularly. These are two other rocks that are stuck above the floor. Here it’s very clear that the wall is build up with pebbles.

Echidna Chasm

There is a very high contrast between the dark wall that is in deep shade and the very bright sunlight dat enters via the top. I need 9 exposures to light everything properly and even then the bright light spills a little onto the shadows surrounding it. Here a somewhat closer and processed a bit differently.

Echidna Chasm

Here the left wall covers most of the photograph.

Echidna Chasm

At the end of the canyon there is a pair of stairs and soon after a dead end follows. As soon as I am alone again I experiment a bit with the flash unit. The camera is on top of the stairs on a timer of 10 seconds. Then I run down the stairs with the flash unit in hand, run across the pebbles to the photo position and jump in the air as soon as I hear the mirror flip, pointing the flash unit on myself. Timing proves difficult. A couple of times I succeed to be airborn when the flash fires. It occurs to me that you pull very weird faces when jumping. After trying for about 20 times I quit. The photo’s I keep for myself for the time being (-;

Almost back at the entrance, the canyon becomes much wider and narrows down soon after. It’s just like a large pebble square.

Echidna Chasm