Bungle Bungle Range location Facts Australia

Bungle Bungle Range location Facts Australia

Grazed by the rays of a low sun, the towers and canyons of the Bungle Bungle form a dreamy panorama that glows as if lit from within. The astonishing tiger-striped domes loom in surreal granduer from the plains of the Ord River in Western Australia – a magical landscape resembling undersea fantasy.

Yet the banded rock walls and fantastic swollen peaks all surge from terrain so remote that until the 1980’s only a handful of travellers had set foot there. To this day, most people view the mountains from the air.

Bungle Bungle Range

Lying in the vast Kimberley region – which is barely pinpricked with the human settlement – the massif covers 175sq miles (450sq km). For much of the year, the heat is intense, with temperatures up to 40C (104F) in the shade. In the long writing dry season, there is virtually no rain, and the rivers shrivel to a scattering of water holes. Then, during the wet season (November-March), the whole range exploded into the green. Waterfalls cascade from glittering tiers of pools as cyclones sweep in from the Indian Ocean, shedding so much rain that the rivers flood their plains and the track to Bungle Bungle is impassable.

Bungle Bungle Range

The Bungle Bungle story goes back 400 million years to a time when immense beds of layered sediment built up here, eroded from now-vanished mountains to the north. Later, streams carved out grooves and gullies in the soft rock; these deepened, looked and were carved by wind and water to leave the isolated sandstone towers of today.

Most of the domes are on the south and east sides of the massif. The west and north sides are sheer rock walls 820 ft (250m) huge, fretted with fascinating canyons. Gorges and chasms are upholstered with tenacious plants such as spinifex (spiny-leaved ‘porcupine grass’), acacia and fan palms, all soaring from precarious crevices to create extraordinary hanging gardens.

Bungle Bungle Range

The vivid stripes in the rocks are formed by weathering. When freshly exposed, the sandstone is whitish, but water seeping along the layered bed deposits a ‘skin’ of quartz and clay that is constantly forming and breaking off. Traces of iron give the stone its tinge of orange, and the grey or brown comes from accumulating lichens and algae, patched by the sun. The sandstone is soft, eroding to dust as fine as talcum powder.

Alexander Forrest, a pert surveyor, led the first European party to set eyes on the great labyrinth in 1879. No one knows why the name Bungle Bungle was given in the 1930s. The aboriginal name is Purnululu (which means ‘sandstone’). Aborigines have lived in the Kimberleys for more than 24,000 years, and the Bungle Bungles are one of their sacred sites.

Today, Aborigines take part in managing this national park and World Heritage area, this is administered to guard the fragile stone against erosion by visitors. A few ponds shaded by rock overhangs last all year and are watering holes for animals such as wallabies and quolls (native cats). Almost as bizarre as the domes are the termite nests up to 18ft (5.5m) high on some of their flanks.

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