Have you ever gone somewhere, and just felt an overwhelming feeling of awe? An overwhelming feeling of calmness? An overwhelming feeling of love?
For us, this feeling, this overwhelming sensation, this place, was Purnululu National Park.
Many years ago, my husband James and I (although he was my fiancé back then!) were travelling Australia and driving along the Great Northern Highway in our old kombi van. We took one look at the sign that said ‘4WD required for Purnululu National Park’ and (sadly) knew that the Bungles would have to be a place to return to one day. We never wrote it down, but it was very much on our ‘list’.
Over the years, we never stopped thinking about Purnululu. We never stopped thinking about what was past that 4WD sign. What was down that windy, gravel road. What was waiting for us.
Years later, when James and I got married, we were inundated with honeymoon recommendations. Our friends and family suggested the Maldives, Greece, Fiji and the Whitsundays (if we wanted to stay in Australia). And while every place looked and sounded utterly amazing, we felt they weren’t quite right for us. When we pictured our first few weeks of married life, we pictured sunsets, tents, the outdoors, mountains, hiking, picnics, adventures and lots and lots of sunshine. We realised, with a jolt of excitement, that the honeymoon we were picturing was in the beautifully rugged Kimberley, and more specifically, Purnululu National Park.
So, we packed our bags, got a 4WD and started the (long!) drive up from Perth. We spent hours in the car, eagerly discussing what the Bungles would look like, what sunset would feel like, what the hikes would be like. Anticipation is a truly wonderful thing. And when you mix that with excitement, the result is unequivocally thrilling.
But while James and I chatted away in the car for hours and hours, picturing the tiger-striped domes, all the adventures we would have, the camping we would experience, we both found ourselves falling silent as we finally approached that windy gravel road. That same road from all those years ago. In fact, we ended up driving the entire 53km into the Park, both silent, both speechless, both absolutely overwhelmed.
We didn’t know it then, but we were taken by Purnululu. It just had us. That first glimpse you get of the Bungle Bungle range is truly indescribable. It will take your breath, and your speech away.
We spent two nights in the Park, creating some of the most wonderful memories I think we will ever have. Watching the domes light up and become a fiery blaze at sunrise, sleeping under the brightest Milky Way we had ever seen, having our breakfast taken by a cheeky magpie, singing songs in Cathedral Gorge as we tested out the acoustics, marvelling at the towering height of Echidna Chasm, and eating lunch in Piccaninny Creek while chatting with a ranger. But every evening was my favourite. We would grab our picnic blanket and choose a spot to sit in and watch the sun go down. In silence. Just like our drive into the Park.
On our last night in the Park, as we were watching the Bungles transform from orange to red while the sky above transformed from pink to purple, I broke the silence and suddenly said to James “this feels like the heart of the Kimberley”. James simply nodded along (he’s not really much for words) and so, we sat there in silence once again, watching the beautiful display that was unfolding in front of us. When we got into our tent later that night, I felt frustrated I couldn’t explain the feelings that Purnululu had ignited in me. I turned to James, exasperated, and threw around words as quickly as I possibly could, but I got nowhere. James (I think wanting to get some shut-eye at that point), looked at me and simply said “there probably are no words, this place just has us”. As he went to sleep shortly after, I lay there. Awake. Thinking about those words. Those simple, small words. They were perfect.
The Park had us. The Heart of the Kimberley had us.
We loved our time in Purnululu so very much, the two of us decided to return the following year. On our second visit, we spent an entire week in the Park and to our delight, we discovered we were just as much taken by the heart of the Kimberley as we were the first time.
From fiery sunsets to unworldly hikes and sleeping under a star-filled sky, we hope you too, will find yourself taken by Purnululu. The heart of the Kimberley.