Bungle Bungle Rollercoaster Ride

The crocodiles didn’t eat us or the sausages. So we lived to the next morning to explore the pretty riverside scenery we found ourselves in.

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Soon it was time to hit the road if we wanted to make it to the entrance of Panululu National Park. That way we could spend the entire day tomorrow exploring the famous Bungle Bungles. The landscape continued to treat us to stunning views and I stopped all over the place taking photos.

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The termite mounds here were very different to those super tall ones around Kakadu National Park. These ones were squat and looked like someone had slapped shovels of thick mud on a heap and the mud had dried before it could run down the side.

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Having been on the road for a while with only croc infested waters around we stank. Luckily some of the roadhouses have showers so we stopped at one at lunchtime to make use of them.

We had long given up eating chocolate in these temperatures. Shortly after leaving the shop you need a spoon to eat it. So Haribos became our standard dessert. As it turns out even these didn’t survive the boiling heat inside the panniers! Waste not want not….

Not willing to pay for a campsite and with all the land fenced off to keep the cattle in we pitched our tent at a rest stop that evening. You could almost imagine we had this idyllic spot to ourselves.

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The reality was quite different though. Lots and lots of caravan wielding tourists had had the same idea as us. Oh well, it wasn’t that bad really.

An overwhelming thirst for an ice cold beer overcame me. Somehow it wasn’t even that difficult to convince Aidan to procure some from the next town, about 100km away! In these parts of Australia aboriginal communities often have agreements with towns to restrict the sale of alcohol. So the last rest stop had been in a “dry” town with none available whatsoever. 

Aidan had left in the afternoon and wasn’t back by sunset. I began to get worried. Had he hit a hapless cow or kangaroo jumping out in front of the bike? My ears were strained for the familiar engine sound. Skunk and I were getting mighty thirsty.

Just before I could get properly worried he was back. The next town only allowed take-out sales of a six pack of light (low alcohol content) beer per person. A James Boags Light never tasted so good! James Boags is a Tasmanian beer and one of my favourites.

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We sat with our backs against the corrugated iron wall of the disused rest stop toilet block watching the stars multiply in the sky slurping every last sip of our six beers.

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The next morning we turned off the highway down the dirt track that leads to Purnululu National Park. A sign warned of a grader ahead. But he must have got lost as the road was a corrugation nightmare. Luckily I knew that it was finite. Only 53 kilometres. Somehow that made it more bearable.

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There was a surprising amount of traffic, the 4x4s throwing up huge dust clouds, blinding us for minutes at a time. Slowly and almost unnoticed at first the road started dipping through dry sandy creeks and up and around small hills. My tire combination seemed to be coping surprisingly well. The relatively new front off-roady one had lots of grip in the lose stuff, steering the bike exactly where I wanted to go. And the rear, oversized road tire seemed to gain grip through sheer size, propelling the bike forward, slipping and sliding a bit, but never too much. I was pleasantly surprised.

Before I knew it I had heaps of fun, zipping along and keeping up with Aidan no problem. The corrugations disappeared almost completely and the road turned into a veritable rollercoaster of sharp bends, steep hills and deep valleys. Lea were flying round corners and over hilltops having the time of our lives. I hardly remembered to take any photos.

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And then my camera broke! Once again the humidity and dust had been too much for the little powershot, my third since we began the trip. So my sincere apologies. From now on there will only be nice photos when Aidan can be bothered to get his big SLR out. Point-and-shoot moments will be only documented with my super crap phone camera. SORRY!

As you can imagine there was no convincing Aidan to stop much for photos. We were having far too much fun, racing along the challenging track with giant grins on our faces. Then we came to a grinding halt. A water crossing. I always let Aidan go first, see if the crocodiles are hungry.

No seriously though, the air filter on my bike is very low. And the cover of the moisture drain pipe at the bottom of the filter housing has a hole in it. So the water doesn’t have to be very deep to draw water into the engine and kill it. Pippa is built much better that way and can ride through much deeper water. So I let Aidan go first to see how deep the water is and how he fares on his chosen path.

This crossing was quite shallow and easy. He set up the camera to take a photo of the giant splash I would be making, gunning it through. I raced off but last second remembered my road tire. I had no idea whether it grips on slippery under water rocks. So I crawled through instead and got a bollocking for the lack of splash.

Not to worry though, a 4×4 stopped to let us know there was a much deeper, trickier river crossing ahead. Sure enough we arrived to fins a queue of cars waiting their turn. They hung around to see how Aidan would fare on his bike and cheered when he made it. They couldn’t be bothered to wait till he’d set up the camera and left me to cross without an audience.

This crossing was harder. The water was deep and dangerously close to the air filter. Then I got stuck, the rear wheel refusing to climb a particularly big boulder. I revved, dropped the clutch and shot over only to drop into an unexpectedly deep hole on the other side. The bike started to go over, water ran into the top of my boots.

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I wrestled Lea back up. No way would I drown my trusty steed! And we made it, soaked head to toe! I could feel the water sloshing around my feet and stopped to empty my boot. The resultant trickle was mighty disappointing and not at all representative of the oceans inside. These boots are disintegrating inside and water gets trapped in the sole, splashing out and around my toes every time I set my foot down with ag pleasant cooling effect.

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Looking up and down our sodden dusty appearances the lady selling us the ticket at the National Park entrance announced the end of the rollercoaster. From now on it would just be corrugations. She didn’t quite understand our disappointment. Luckily the stripy Bungle Bungles weren’t far now.

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We parked up the bikes and went for a bumble around.At first it looked like the place was overrun with tourists. Luckily the crowds thinned out as we went further in.

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At one point we had a valley all to ourselves. It had an almost spiritual tranquility about it and we were reminded of the deserted ruins a bit further out from Hampi village in India.

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We followed a dried up river to a small pond hidden deep inside a gorge. The shade was cool, providing great relief from the midday heat.

On the way out I wasn’t feeling so well. I was much more tire than I should have been. I think I was busy getting a heat stroke. Back at the bikes I dissolved a few re-hydration tablets in my water bottle and downed all of it. It helped a bit. Now that we’d seen the Bungle Bungles and the excitement had died down somewhat the corrugations to the park entrance seemed endless.

Then it was back to the rollercoaster bit and the tiredness was forgotten. Once again we were braaping through the hills having heaps of fun flying round gravely bends. This time I managed to convince Aidan to stop for a couple of photos here and there.

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The last bit was corrugation hell. I could have sworn the way in hadn’t been as badly corrugated. Evening was approaching and most cars were leaving too, whipping up dust all around us. Our teeth were gritty with sand and our eyes and throats burned with dust. The low sun blinded our squinting eyes and we rode half blind. Now I was definitely feeling super tired and a pounding headache refused to go away no matter how much water I drank. Reaching the tarmac highway became a bit of an endurance test.

This time we found a rest stop a little further along so it wasn’t as busy. We found a quiet corner and collapsed with exhaustion. Even the strange hoof sounds circling our tent in the dark couldn’t rouse our curiosity. What an awesome rollercoaster day!

One response to “Bungle Bungle Rollercoaster Ride

  1. Pingback: Shenanigans in Perth | followingtarmac·

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