Max Brearley | Off Shoot Creative

Max Brearley is a food, drink and travel journalist, writing features for the likes of delicious. Australia, The Weekend Australian Magazine, The Guardian, Gourmet Traveller WINE, SilverKris and Virgin Australia. He is currently Contributing Editor for the WA Good Food Guide.

Discovering Burringurrah, a road trip from Carnarvon to Mount Augustus

There was no single moment when we spotted Burringurrah in its entirety; emerging from the horizon, its magnitude becoming more apparent as you draw closer and closer. Known by this ancient name to the Wajarri people for millennia, Europeans dubbed it Mount Augustus. 

The 472 km journey from Carnarvon to Burringurrah, takes around six and a half hours, the first two to Gascoyne Junction, the last stop for fuel and refreshments, is on sealed roads before the tarmac gives way to dirt. To the south, the Kennedy Range National Park, known as Mundatharrda to the Inggarda people, is popular for wilderness walks and seasonal wildflowers.

Hitting the dirt there’s a thought that this is real road trip country, an Australia many know only in their minds. There’s a feeling of luck and adventure in being able to experience it. 

Comparisons have been made between Burringurrah and Uluru; two sites with ancient geological origins and Aboriginal significance. But thoughts of any comparison fall away as you look upon this inselberg, or ‘island mountain’ rising 715m above the plains. 

Burringurrah is named after a runaway boy who shunned tribal initiation. Caught up by elders he was speared, falling to the ground and dying where he lay. It is said that you can see him laying down in the rock formations that take his name. 

The land is populated by wattles and river gums; arid yet home to goannas, emus, parrots, kangaroos and euros. The sandstone sections of Burringurrah are dated to 1.6 billion years old and it is estimated to be 2.5 times the size of Uluru. A more relevant and respectful thought on this West Australian cultural and geographic icon is perhaps to take it for what it is, without comparison.

Burringurrah sits on the edge of Mount Augustus National Park which stretches westward. To the east, the pastoral landscape of Mount Augustus Station established in 1887, which raises cattle for the beef market. 

At Mount Augustus Tourist Park, a crossroads to Paraburdoo and Meekatharra, there’s the chance to refuel, pitch up for a few nights or take a cabin. The bar has all the humour of the classic outback pub, a sign reading no dickheads, no spitting, no swearing. Home each year to what is billed as “Australia's Biggest Barbecue,” it’s an outback feast not to be forgotten: a long table dinner under the stars with a huge acacia fuelled barbecue toiled over by chefs grilling beef by the kilo.

There are different ways to get a view of Burringurrah and the surrounding area. Cattle Pool on the Lyons River is a magnet for those fascinated by bird life; a home to native waterbirds such as black cormorants and heron. The 49km Loop Drive is a way to access gorges, creeks and short walks that allow visitors to get up close to view petroglyphs (ancient rock carvings). For a more strenuous exploration there’s the summit walk which is only advisable for those with a good level of fitness and competence for the six to eight hour ascent and descent. However you choose to experience this country, safety and respect should be at the forefront of your mind. Exposure and dehydration are a risk, the hotter months, December to March, often exceed 40c. And while the traditional owners, the Wajarri people, welcome visitors to Burringurrah they request that walking should be in during daylight hours only. As a rule, it’s always best to consider treading lightly on this land. 

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