The Wainwrights introduced the Bungle Bungles to the world, then added hot showers and home-cooked meals to the experience.
Story By Therese Hall
Until 1983, few people had heard of the Bungle Bungle Range in Western Australia’s east Kimberley. Tucked up against the Northern Territory border on the outer reaches of Mabel Downs cattle station, with only a narrow dirt access track, the 2400-square-kilometre site of spectacular sandstone domes and canyons was largely hidden from the world’s view.
Enter the Wainwrights: father and son Bob and Paul, and Paul’s wife Fran. They were running the run-down Turkey Creek Roadhouse, 150km up the road, selling fuel and groceries to travellers, station workers and Indigenous community members, when they watched a documentary about the mysterious region on their doorstep. Broadcast in an episode of Guy Baskin’s Wonders of Western Australia, it featured aerial footage of the unusual geological region. “We missed the original screening, as we didn’t have TV reception at Turkey Creek,” Paul says. “We only got to see it when my brothers in Perth sent us a parcel of VHS tapes with recordings of whatever they thought might interest us.”
The Bungle Bungles (now known as Purnululu National Park) was certainly of interest to the Wainwrights. They hired a helicopter for an aerial view, then drove in – bush-bashing along 53km of dirt from the highway for six hours to see it for themselves. They liked what they saw. Within months they had a tour licence and a 13-seat Toyota Arkana and were ready to reveal this lost landscape to curious travellers. Trading as Turkey Creek Bush Safaris, Paul and Bob initially took small groups into the Bungles for overnight camping trips. “I reckon in the first year we took 20 people in,” Paul says. “Tourism wasn’t really an industry out here then.”
Thirty-three years later, Paul and Fran have shown thousands of people the rare beauty of the Bungle Bungles on four-wheel drive tours, capping off the experience with a stay in their eco-friendly Bungle Bungle Bushcamp.
This Story is from Issue #107
Outback Magazine: Jun/July 2016