Wyndham, the Bungles and Our Last Australian Stop
Aaron Saunders, Live Voyage Reports
Today marks our last day in Australia aboard Silversea’s Silver Discoverer. Tomorrow, we will chart a course across the Timor Sea, bound for Indonesia and the next stage of our luxury expedition adventure that will conclude on Saturday in Bali.
On this Monday, we set off from the small town of Wyndham, Australia for an inclusive flight over the Bungle Bungle mountain range. To reach the Bungles, we’d drive first overland to Kununurra, Australia, which is pronounced almost like my favorite county in Ireland, Connemara. Change the ‘m’ in Connemara to an ‘n’, and you’re left with Kununurra.
Wydnham itself is a trip, and I wish we would have had some time to amble around this small, desolate town. There’s a handful of liquor stores, and the local Bar and Hotel can be yours for a paltry $800,000 (it’s up for sale). The town has a massive sculpture of a saltwater crocodile in front of a school, no less, and a little further up the road is the town’s drying-out facility. “We’ve got a bit of a problem with alcohol here,” says our driver as we speed past it.
If a stint in rehab doesn’t shape you up, a little farther up the road still takes you to the local correctional facility. “We’ve got a lot of folks here, too,” continues the driver as we once again zip past the thing, which this time is surrounded by a large steel fence.
With much of Wyndham in various stages both on-and-off the wagon, we continued on to Kununurra, which is larger than Wyndham and a bit more inviting. It’s still remote and extremely desolate, but it’s a fascinating place. I would have liked to have spent a night or two here, just to see how the town ticks after-hours.
After a quick refreshment stop in Kununurra, it was off to the airport for our flight over the Bungle Bungle.
Different than the ‘Bunga Bunga’ parties that got Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi into a bit of a jam, the Bungle Bungles are a spectacular land formation located within Purnululu National Park roughly an hour’s flight south of Kununurra.
The mountain range was formed 360 million years ago and consists of sandstone and gravel that have become heavily compacted together over time. Almost entirely devoid of jagged edges, prevailing winds have shaped the Bungles into structures resembling large beehives protruding from the ground. The entire area is so surreal that it looks more like something that would be created in a computer graphics program.
To get there, we first flew over the Ord River Dam, which provides storage for 11,000 gigalitres of water in Lake Argyle. This water is fed through the region’s hydro generators to provide power for the towns of Kununurra and Wyndham. The remaining three-quarters of the power is used almost exclusively for diamond mining operations in the area.
One of these mines is the Argyle Diamond Mine. Owned by Rio Tinto, it is one of the largest in the world with an estimated output of 20 million carats per year.
For all the flights I have taken in my life, I have never once been airsick. But, because I like to continue adding to my repertoire of ‘firsts’, my first trip on a 14-passenger Cessna Caravan proved that yes, it can happen to me. And it did.
Now, I’m not trying to scare anyone away from doing the Bungle Bungle flight, but I do think it’s a good idea to maybe take some anti-nausea tablets or have some Ginger Ale or candied ginger before setting out.
To be fair, I felt motion-sick on the bus ride into Kununurra, which can best be described as an hour-long rollercoaster ride conducted at a slower speed. The road turns and twists and rises and falls on a nearly constant basis, and is almost akin to driving over loose gravel for nearly an hour thanks to the enormous “Road Train” semi-trucks that can be pulling as many as four trailers behind them in this part of the world.
The knock-on effect was that by the time we reached The Kimberley Grande hotel in Kununurra, I felt pretty wretched. I had some tea and munched on some fresh fruit, but still didn’t feel all that confident when we headed to Kununurra Airport for our flight.
The scenery from the flight, however, was spectacular, and I am glad I went. If you are at all prone to motion sickness or if you become claustrophobic in any way, I’d recommend the complimentary Ord River Cruise excursion that Silversea offers in Kununurra as an alternative. Still, the Bungle Bungle flight is an awesome inclusion to have offered on these Silver Discoverer sailings in The Kimberley. It’s also one that wouldn’t be particularly cheap to do on your own; the company that operated our flights, SlingAir, had abrochure I picked up with a similar tour advertised at AUD$760 per person.
Of course, coming back onboard a Silversea ship is a treat, as there’s always something on offer at the gangway. Today, it was drinks and cold towels. My wobbly stomach made me pass on the drink, but the cold towel felt fantastic. I know it sounds odd, but it really does feel like you’re ‘home’ when you step back onboard a Silversea ship – even if it’s merely your home-away-from-home.
Tonight, Silver Discoverer purposefully sails across the Timor Sea. We’re going to get very lucky with the weather; Expedition Leader Mick Fogg gave us the complete rundown at tonight’s briefing in the Explorer Lounge. The next day calls for winds 10 to 15 knots, at times gusting to 20; and slight seas with moderate swells.
Next stop: Savu Island, Indonesia!
Silver Discoverer, The Kimberley Coast, Australia to Indonesia
|May 9, 2014||Day 1 - Arrival Down Under|
|May 10||Day 2 - Sydney and the Shangri-La|
|May 11||Day 3 - Perth|
|May 12||Day 4 - Embarking Silver Discoverer in Broome|
|May 13||Day 5 - Exploring the Kimberley, Day 1|
|May 14||Day 6 - Exploring the Kimberley, Day 2|
|May 15||Day 7 - Exploring the Kimberley, Day 3|
|May 16||Day 8 - Exploring the Kimberley, Day 4|
|May 17||Day 9 - Exploring the Kimberley, Day 5|
|May 18||Day 10 - Exploring the Kimberley, Day 6|
|May 19||Day 11 - Wyndham, Australia|
|May 20||Day 12 - At Sea|
|May 21||Day 13 - Savu, Indonesia|
|May 22||Day 14 - Komodo & Pink Beach, Indonesia|
|May 23||Day 15 - Waikelo, Indonesia|
|May 24||Benoa, Bali, Indonesia|