Living in a Marsupial World
 
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Dev and Mar prepare for the joy of crossing the border
The day after our Kakadu jaunt, we exuberantly crossed the Western Australia border, finally shedding the stubborn, expensive magnetism of the Northern Territory. After driving through the quarantine checkpoint (WA is extremely serious about its environmental restrictions – they confiscated all our fresh produce and our jar of honey), we could immediately sense a difference from all the other Australian states we had been through before. Like a breath of fresh air, the landscape was vibrant and ornate, full of new and diverse plants and trees and rock formations. The road itself seemed new and refreshing, free from swarms of backpackers, irritated commuters, and Grey Nomads (retirees in caravans). As we drove deeper and deeper into WA, we felt energized, as if Australia had opened up a secret door just for the three of us. 



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And there's that joy.
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The guys do some test lunges with their pearly whites... Ew.
Our first stop in Western Australia was the town of Kununurra, where we restocked on water and classic Aussie men’s wear. The guys had been hankering for some stubbies for a long portion of our journey and finally found some suitable pre-loved pairs in Kununurra. To enlighten those back home, stubbies are shorts. Not just shorts but incredibly short shorts that allow tans in places where the sun don’t usually shine. Rugby players show off their sculpted quads in stubbies, but more often than not, stubbies are seen on your everyday Aussie country man – the rounded, doughy guy who shows off a little too much as he steps out of his dirty white ute at the gas station, shirtless and holding a beer can. Ben has been itching to write a blog essay focused on the stubbie phenomenon, so when we’re in a more settled place, stay tuned. You’re in for a treat.

In Kununurra we gathered some info on the Kimberly (the so-called last great frontier of Australian wilderness) and forged our game plan for our adventures through it. We had been in contact with another WWOOF host who said we could join them at their property before they left for a vacation at the end of September. Without much time between our arrival and their departure, and wanting to leave northern Australia before the wet season began, we decided to do a short explore in the Bungle Bungles (a unique geological landscape in the southeast Kimberly) and then make a b-line for Udialla Springs (where we would WWOOF) on the southwestern edge. 





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Sweet Boab Tree. And some sweet stubbies.
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Into the Kimberly and the Bungle Bungles!
The Bungle Bungles (or Purnululu National Park) is located down a 53 kilometer, one-lane, unsealed road full of corrugation and blind crests. We were told at the information center to allow roughly 2 hours of drive time for this shortish track so as not to get in a wreck or completely destroy our vehicle.  It ended up being a breathtaking ride, but due to the fragility of our very light 4WD vehicle, it took us a good three and a half hours to reach the park. Once in, we had another half hour of slow drive time to get to a good camping area for the night. 



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We almost ran over this awesome Blue Tongued Lizard as he was sunning himself on the road
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Too close for missiles, we're switching to guns.
Just as we began to cook dinner, the skies opened up and we had our first taste of the northern Australian wet season. Devin worked on a sauce in the back of the car with a lid from a plastic bin on his head to keep out the rain while I attempted to shield the noodles on Ben’s camping stove from the water with my body. In the end I ended up completely soaked underneath my rain gear but the budget noodles with a veggie and peanut satay sauce turned out quite nicely. 



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Bounding into Mini Palms Gorge
We unfortunately had only one full day to take advantage of the park, but luckily other than the multi-day 80-kilometer track (which we would’ve loved to do) we were able to tackle the park’s five other hikes, which were absolutely spectacular. [The park has only a handful of hiking tracks because the rest of the land is designated as Aboriginal living space and culturally sacred areas.] We began our day in the northern half, hiking through Mini Palms Gorge and Echidna Chasm. Although these had their own unique beauty, I felt so much nostalgia for Utah, particularly with Echidna Chasm: a slot canyon much like ones we had explored in the Escalante region of southern Utah. 



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Devin testing the incredible acoustics at Mini Palms Gorge
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Devin and Ben in Echidna Chasm - note their scale in comparison to the amazing canyon walls
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Ben at the end of the chasm, enveloped in conglomerate rock
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Piccaninny Creek Bed and The Bungles
In the afternoon, we made our way south and hiked through the official “Bungle Bungles” – beehive-shaped rock formations with striations of red sandstone and black cyanobacteria. At this point in the day the sky had turned overcast and we welcomed the misty rain, which not only cooled us down but also discouraged any other potential tourists from hiking, leaving us alone in this mystical wonderland. We weaved through the Bungles and ended up along an incredible riverbed, eventually reaching a magnificent lookout point. Ben’s camera battery unfortunately died right before we reached the lookout, but the landscape we traversed to get there was absolute magic. Across the riverbed we rounded a corner into a cluster of bungles that encircled a small patch of rolling rocks and sand covered in brilliant yellow and purple desert flowers. The lookout itself had us up on a rocky cliff between two bungles, looking down at the bungle formations in the distance. 



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We are men of action.
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Piccaninny Creek Bed and The Bungles
With the sky overcast, we had trouble determining the time of day, but decided that it was getting close to dark. With one hiking track left and daylight running low, we made a quick choice to haul-ass down the trail to view Cathedral Gorge. We jogged through the dimly lit canyon, weaving in and out of a dry, sandy riverbed until we reached the Cathedral itself. Again, I was amazed by the resemblance this place had to Utah, which has a spot known as Golden Cathedral. These two Cathedral spaces looked, to me, almost identical – both rounded, sheltered caverns of rock with rainwater pools sitting just under runoff points in the rock above - the only main difference being that the runoff point in Utah is a fully formed oculus. We paid our respects to this beautiful place and its resident nocturnal animals and then went at full tilt trail running speed back out of the canyon until we reached the car park right as it became completely dark. Awesome.
 
That night, the rains came down on us once more. Not wanting a drenching repeat of dinner the night before, we hunkered down in the car, each with our own can of spaghetti and sauce, passing around a large can of baked beans. Quality camping fare paired with The Princess Bride. Unbeatable. We took the long drive out the next morning light and exhilarated. 



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Wicked Four Wheelin
Tom
10/4/2010

nice pictures guys!

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mum
10/11/2010

Ardvarrk, Wombat, Emu, Sawfish,Oystercatcher,Mallee(fowl), Echidna...take the first letter of each of these Australian animals and that is what I think of your current adventures, this blog and your photos! Wow! C'est fantastique! Love and miss you, mum

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Dad
10/14/2010

Marielle, I love the pic of you in the Aussie hat! Ben, you've got a back country look going-- verging toward something out of Apocalypse Now. Glad you've made it to the West.

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