Tears at Purnululu

A trip into the Bungle Bungles today. A hundred kilometres north of Halls Creek, then sixty km in from the Great Northern Highway just a few km past the Ord river.  The road is rough but easy enough to drive, however the trip was a bit of a disappointment because all the river crossings except one were completely dry.  On my last trip, even later in the year than this, we were driving through water deeper than our wheels. So much more fun than crossing a dry creek bed. This wet season did not live up to the name at all.

This second visit was an opportunity to explore a little further than last time, when I was there on business, with little time for sightseeing.  I promised to take Steve there next week when he comes up.  I thought I should know a little more about the place first.  Lyn and Anne took a helicopter flight out over the Bungles, but I did not have the reserves for that. I waited for them, and then we headed in to take a look at Cathedral Gorge.

I had prepared myself by taking an extra 50mg of Voltaren in addition to my usual daily doses of Osteo-Panadol.  That usually sees me through any extra exertion in a day.  Not this time.  By halfway into the gorge I was in fairly severe pain. The combination of clambering over uneven rocks and walking in the soft white sand of the riverbeds was a little more than my knees could cope with.    I had to stop and rest. Aware that the last half of the track was likely to be even rougher, I reluctantly decided to turn back.  I did not want to have to be rescued.  The others went on while I sat and rested for a bit before limping back to the carpark.  As I sat I shed a few tears, partly of pain but more of frustration at what I have become.  Inside, I am still the intrepid explorer of 40 years ago.  I shall just keep at it.  I can and will get back to what I was.  Or die trying.

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What made it worse was that as I sat on a rock ledge just about three metres off the track, half a dozen elderly walkers – more elderly than I – walked past me, heading back towards the off road tour bus at the carpark. They were not what I would call the most observant of hikers.  Not one of them noticed me, even though I sat in plain sight in the shade of a tree.  They all looked straight ahead as they walked, and discoursed on the size of the memory cards in their cameras.

I was really sorry not to see Cathedral Gorge. By all accounts it is spectacularly beautiful. What I did get to see was pretty awesome. The hills are sandstone, deposited in layers long ago when the land was flooded.  They have been pushed up about 200m above the surrounding plain, and in the meantime, eroded by flowing water into their distinctive shapes.  The bands of red and black are different densities of fairly porous sandstone, partly held together by some sort of cyanobacteria that survives on water percolating through the rock. The black layer of growing cyanobacteria actually strengthens the structure against erosion.

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Author: Uisce úr

Though I am old with wandering Through hollow lands and hilly lands, I will find out where she has gone, And kiss her lips and take her hands; And walk among long dappled grass, And pluck till time and times are done, The silver apples of the moon, The golden apples of the sun.

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