Trip 45, post #2 – Bungalbin (Helena Aurora Ranges)

Located 115km north of Southern Cross, Bungalbin is a banded ironstone formation (BIF) range that sits above the surrounding plains of the western woodlands.

Luckily, the locals and some environmentalists fought and won a case against a mining company that wanted to mine the ranges for iron. Coincidentally, I got talking to one of the key locals, Brian, at the local Southern Cross hardware store, who represented his and several other shires in the case. And whilst waiting for him to refill our gas bottle, he recounted a couple of his tactics for winning the case. We, and we expect many others, are very grateful for their passion and efforts as Bungalbin, pronounced “Bun-gal-bin”, is a beautiful and relatively remote part of Western Australia, which is now protected for generations to enjoy.

Whilst only 115km from Southern Cross, the last 60-odd km, north of Koolyanobbing, is a track and can be a bit rough and alternates from very dry and dusty, to extremely sticky clay and mud when wet. With negligible rain in the region recently, the track for this trip was dusty but easily navigable for Sir Gwavin and Goldy.

The camping area is just some semi-cleared spaces in amongst the trees on the Northwestern side of the range. There are no facilities whatsoever, so self-sufficiency is a must. We were the only campers so we had our pick of the spots, choosing a large area, set back off the track, where we could park the van to get plenty of sun for the solar panels and keep the van and car clear of any falling tree limbs just in case. Our major campsite challenges are, the extremely dry, fine red dust, which gets everywhere, and of course the ever-present friendly flies.

Our campsite from the drone
Campsite – Jules iPhone pic
Setup at camp – Jules iPhone pic
Jules iPhone pic

Unfortunately, Jules’ back has been a bit sore recently, so we opted to take it a bit easy and just do the hikes that Bushy and I (Tony) were unable to complete when we camped here in Easter 2023 (this trip was Jules’ first visit).

So, our first hike was the Western Range loop, which was inaccessible when Bushy and I were here due to flooding and the track essentially being a mud bath bog waiting to happen. This hike was a 6km round trip that saw us essentially bush bash (as there are no marked trails) up the range to the Eastern peak, then hike along the ridge of the range to the Western peak, before descending back down to the South side woodlands and hiking back along the base of the range to the car. Whilst it was a nice hike, compared to some of the other hikes I (Tony) had done here before, I didn’t think this hike provided the best views. We did grab a few pics of the views and some butterflies atop the ridge and did some drone shots and video. Then it was back to camp for a campfire, dinner, and a hot shower before bed. One of the things we love about our van and camping in remote spots like this is we can unzip all the windows, and keep the curtains open which provides a 360-degree view of the stars from bed. This is million star camping at its best!

Gwavin on the ridge saddle
Pic from the range
Jules’ iPhone pic at the ridge saddle
Taking a pic
Example of the banded ironstone the ranges are known for
Jules atop the western range hike
Beautiful gum in the range
Beautiful little butterfly atop the range
Another butterfly atop the range
Atop the ridge
Jules looking out

Brekky the following morning was a glamped-up, poached eggs on avocado and dark rye bread, topped with balsamic glaze – yum. Jules’ back was particularly sore today, so we opted for the easier, but still strenuous Northeastern ridge walk. Driving Sir Gwavin up onto the range saddle, we then took the left track and parked at a small clearing. We then we hiked along the remainder of the increasingly diminishing track to the far Northeastern ridge, which offered unobstructed views out to the North, East and West, across the Western Woodlands and then further out across the sandy shrubland.

It was on our descent from the ridge that we encountered our first snake of the trip, what we think was a Western Brown Snake, approximately 70cms long, who slithered between Jules and I as we paused to watch it, off into his little log hollow. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get any pics for proper identification, but it was cool to see, and a great reminder of being snake smart in areas as remote as this, where the nearest medical help is a minimum 2hrs away. But that’s assuming you can even get back to the car as we were still a couple of km from the car, across some very, rough, undulating and undrivable terrain. Whilst we carry a snake bite bandage for limb compression, we discussed and agreed it was likely we’d need to use our Personal Locater Beacon (PLB) to call for emergency help had one of us been bitten in a location like this.

Following our hike, we decided to drive further north to explore, and in the hopes of spotting a Thorny Devil lizard as Bushy and I found one out in the sand tracks last year. Unfortunately, no Devils to be found this time, but we did enjoy the drive, eventually driving out about 30km from camp, to Lindi and then Kurrajong Rocks. Both rocks are large granite formations, which are sources of valuable water to people and animals alike, as any rain collects and pools in the numerous depressions across the surface. On approaching Lindi Rock, we happened across a large wild Camel hanging on the track, who seemed rather disgruntled that we’d disturbed him. Jules tried to grab some video on the GoPro but he faded into the surrounding bush like a ghost. Luckily, he was back on the track on our way out and we got our video.

The vegetation and grass surrounding Lindi Rock almost looks like it is manicured as it’s evenly cropped, likely managed and eaten by the local herbivorous animals such as the Kangaroos and Camels that frequent the rocks for the water. Kurrajong Rock was much larger and contained a couple of pools of water, and lots of old glass and tin remnants from what we surmised were early fossickers and musterers from the early 1900s.

Parked up, ready for our second hike
Jules catching up either girls
Western Yellow Robin
View from atop the range
View from atop the range
View from atop the range
View from the atop the range
Jules taking in the view
Me taking a shot
Colour of the layers at a breakaway
Drone shot taking at 0m altitude (still on the ground)
Looking back to Bungalbin from the North
Looking back to Bungalbin from the North
Jules’ iPhone pic of the camel
White Faced Chat at Kurrajong Rock
Jules checking out the rock
Jules on Kurrajong Rock
Lindi Rock
Butterfly on Kurrajong Rock
Lamb roast and veggies, ready to go into the BBQ

Day 3 at Bungalbin was a rest day. A late and lazy breakfast, followed by some handwashing of our hiking clothes and then journals, blogging and photo development. To cap off our evening we drove back up to the ridge saddle to enjoy the sunset, take some drone shots and ring the girls as there is mobile reception from atop the range. Finishing the day back at the campsite with an Old Fashioned (or two) and dinner.

Me prepping photos and the blog
Last light splashing through the trees
Drone shot at sunset atop the ridge saddle
Drone shot of ranges at sunset
Drone shot of ranges at sunset
Drone shot of Jules and I

Tomorrow we’re heading back down to Southern Cross to restock and meet up with Big Jeff (BJ) who’ll be our travel partner for much of the next 6 months, as we continue our way East on Monday, 20th May. Bring on the next stage of our trip!!

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