Ancient Stone

Round Australia Road Trip #7

The beehive shaped sandstone domes known as the Bungle Bungles are located in Purnululu National Park, in the east Kimberley region of Western Australia. The unsealed road leading to this World Heritage listed area is only 53 km long but with rough corrugations and muddy creek crossings it can take up to two hours to get to the Ranger Station. It’s worth the effort though, for the privilege of walking through these ancient stone formations; the sandstone layers were laid down more than 350 million years ago.



On the western side of the Bungle Bungle range, sheer red cliffs are bordered by eucalypts and surrounded by plains covered with spinifex and desert grasses.


The landscape on the eastern side is a stark contrast. Sculpted by fierce winds blowing in from the Tanami Desert over the last 20 million years, vast sandstone domes, banded in orange and black stripes rise up to 200 metres and deep chasms and gorges lead into the range.


There are several walks in the park, ranging from 500 metre walks to overnight treks. The Dome Walk is a 700 metre loop walk through the sandstone domes along dry, sandy creek beds. The stripes in the rock formations are formed by cyanobacteria, tiny organisms which cause the black colouring. The red stone glows under the intense mid-morning sun.



This walk joins on to the longer Cathedral Gorge walk, 2.8 km return. The path leads up over narrow ledges and rocky outcrops; it’s cooler in the shadows.


The gorge opens up into a massive natural amphitheatre. At the end of the dry season there is no water flowing, but it’s easy to see where wet season rainfalls tumble over the cliff edge. All that remains now are small waterholes, their glasslike surfaces making perfect reflections.


The amphitheatre has amazing acoustics. When we sing our voices echo around the space and when one person speaks, everyone else can hear clearly as the sound travels around the rock walls.


People have lived here for 20 000 years. I wonder how many other voices have echoed in this space.

34 thoughts on “Ancient Stone

  1. After reading Jude’s comment, I had to go back and look at the amphitheatre photo. When I looked at it the first time I hadn’t actually spotted the tiny people! It’s a massive space. The Bungle Bungle rock formations are amazing, and I find it hard to imagine how long ago 350 million years is – my brain is hurting.

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