The extraordinary Bungle Bungle Ranges only became generally known in the mid-1980s when they were featured for the first time on a documentary series about Western Australia. Of course, the indigenous population, who had roamed the area for at least 50,000 years knew them well and used to spend the wet seasons there because of the permanent water and plentiful wildlife.
Located in the East Kimberley region of Western Australia, the Bungle Bungles have now been incorporated into the Purnululu National Park, which was established in 1987, and there are many sensible restrictions placed upon visitors so as to preserve the remarkable integrity of the area.
There are many walks along the river banks and into gorges within the Bungle Bungles, most of each are relatively easy to undertake.
One of the most interesting walks that I have done is into Echidna Chasm, which is on the western edge of the range.
The walk lasts about one hour, and starts from a well-signposted car park. I did this walk as part of a 10-day Kimberley safari with the Broome-based Adventure Wild, a tour company which really knows the region well and respects the land through which you travel.
The start of the walk is benign enough, you just follow a well-marked track along a creek bed. The start of the trek is through relatively open land, but soon you begin to enter a gorge which seems to be narrower than other gorge walks within the Bungle Bungles.
Gradually, the walls of the gorge get steeper and they start to close in on you. As you proceed further up the gorge, the track gets narrower, the light starts to disappear, and you find yourself walking through a chasm instead of a gorge.
By this stage, the walls are very steep and very tall and the chasm has become just wide enough to walk through. As you keep going, it actually becomes quite dark as the light finds it difficult to penetrate the narrow gap of the chasm. If you look up, you can see the bright skies that are framed by the dark walls high above you, but by this time, the walls are so steep that you can’t actually make out the apex of the cliffs.
There is only one way in and you must return via the route you took as the chasm ends at a solid wall.
I found it to be a fascinating experience, but there were some on the trip who felt so uncomfortable in such an enclosed space that they didn’t make it to the end of the chasm. Because the sun cannot penetrate to the chasm floor, it actually gets quite cool as you move further up the track. It never gets cold, but the East Kimberleys have a very hot climate, and I found it to be a very comfortable temperature, and quite refreshing after a slog under the hot sun.