10th-11th September, 2016.
Today our destination is Spring Creek Rest Area on the Great Northern Highway about 500m south of the entrance to the Bungle Bungles access road. We had been debating whether it was too hot to attempt the drive in and walk in the National Park but having come this far we decided to do it as we could always turn around and leave if it was all too difficult.
When we passed this rest area on our way west, it was packed. Today there was only one van there when we arrived so we had the pick of the spots. The upper level would have been better for solar collection but it was fairly exposed to passing traffic. The lower level beside the dry creek bed was much more inviting but it was tricky to find a spot that was going to give us enough sun to keep the batteries happy but we managed it.
It was not long before more vans arrived but it was never busy at any time during our two night stay. A fellow camper told us when she had been here four years ago a little earlier in the season, the creek was full and people were swimming. Not this year!
In preparation for the drive in, we deflated our tyres to 26psi all round. We were unsure what to expect of the road other than knowing it could take around 2 hours to cover the 53kms to the Visitor Centre. We set off at 5.40 a.m., hoping to get some walks done before the day got too hot. As it turned out, we covered the distance in 1½ hours with the road being better than we expected. It was very corrugated, narrow in places, hilly and with dry creek crossings so it was not difficult to see why only single axle trailers are allowed on the road. But, in general, we did not think it much worse than some other outback roads we have travelled on.
About half of the drive is through property owned by Mabel Downs Station.
Termite mounds are everywhere in the outback.
There were three walks that we planned to do from the central car park at Piccaninny, a further 25kms from the Visitor Centre in the southern part of the park, The Domes, Cathedral Gorge and Piccaninny Lookout. The other, much longer walks we knew would be well beyond us in the heat. The car park was already busy when we arrived a bit before 8 a.m. and an Outback Spirit tour bus arrived at about the same time. We decided to walk in the reverse direction to the tour group and headed to the Lookout first.
Much of the walking track is sand which makes the going even more difficult in the heat.
Walking along the rock based creek bed was a welcome relief from the sand.
Am I looking thrilled to be here? Hmm, not so much! Hot and sweaty and it is still only 8.15 a.m. but the scenery is spectacular.
Pausing to photograph the occasional wildflower is really an excuse to catch one’s breath.
It was not too difficult a climb to the lookout where the view was quite special.
Unfortunately, we then had to retrace much of the route on our way to Cathedral Gorge.
The distances don’t seem far but the heat is making the walk difficult.
Fortunately, much of the walk to Cathedral Gorge was shaded making it much more pleasant.
It think this ladder is the reason this is a Class 4 walk.
Retracing our path back towards the car park, we decided to walk to the Domes, just a short detour.
We got back to the car park at around 10.15 a.m. and were thankful that we could replenish our water bottles from the additional water we had in the car fridge. It was now around 37 degrees, really too hot to be in the sun but we decided to drive to the northern part of the park where there are more walks.
The rock formations in this part of the park were a bit different from the domes.
By now we had worked up an appetite and ate our lunch under the shade sails covering the picnic tables at the car park at Echidna.
The walk to Osmand Lookout was steep but thankfully only 100 metres or so and afforded good views over the surrounding countryside.
The walk to Echidna Gorge was along the rocky creek bed but by this time we had had enough and decided to head back to camp. The area is certainly well worth a visit but it really was too late in the season for us. Dedicated hikers should camp in the NP camp ground for a couple of nights to take advantage of early starts because, even in mid-winter, the days can be very hot.
We made good time back to our campsite, had our showers and spent the rest of the day recuperating.
Erich was rewarded to a nice sunset.
Undeterred by the previous day’s exertions, Erich was out for his early morning walk to take a few shots before we completed packing up and heading further north.