In the heart of the rural town of Kununurra boasting a population of close to 6,000 (and over 100,000 visitors annually) is a place where you can step back in time, feel the silence and hear the ancient ancestors – Mirima National Park. Locals refer to Mirima as the mini “Bungles”, owing to the 350 million year old sandstone domes which are reminiscent of their big brother to the south, Purnululu.
As you step into Mirima, it’s hard to believe you are still in vibrant Kununurra. Dwarfed by the towering red sandstone escarpment, Mirima feels like an oasis rich in flora and fauna – it is clear to see why this place was a favoured home to the local Miriwoong people. This is only accentuated further as I wander wide-eyed on the aptly named Looking at Plants loop trail, with a dozen or so signs along the way indicating various plant uses from boab’s (adansonia gregorii) used as nut flour, the bark and leaves of emu apple (owenia vernicosa) used as fish poison (helps stun the fish making them easier to catch) to the bloodwood (corymbia ptychocarpa) used as medicinal body wash. This oasis is rich in everything one needs to survive.
Mirima is the first national park in Western Australia to operate under a joint management agreement – this is a formal partnership between the traditional owners, the Miriwoong people and the Western Australian Government. Together they provide land management and protection of cultural sites for all to respect, learn about and enjoy.
Although accessible throughout the year, during the dry season (May – Sept) Mirima is a busy little national park located a very short drive or a comfortable 2 km walk from the town’s visitor centre. Today is a busy day in the park, that said, it was quite easy for me to find rare moments of stillness at Mirima with no-one else around – just you, the towering ancient red sandstone escarpment, the vivid blue sky, the call of a whistling kite in the distance and the rustling of the wind through the woollybutt trees.
Experiencing Mirima is super easy – the Looking at Plants loop walk is completely wheelchair accessible and for those wanting a little extra, head up the Demboong Banan or Derdbe-gerring Banban Trail, the short climbs will reward with land before time views across the Ord River Valley.
I have also visited Mirima in the wet season, another treat with tumbling cascades filling the life giving waterholes below. During the wet season you can truly witness how the power of the elements has shaped this ancient landscape. The flora changes too – there are even some incredible flowers like nothing I’ve ever seen before – the kids tell me they remind them of the Lorax’s Truffula trees from Dr Seuss. I secretly hope that we've found a new species we can call the truffula loraxii!
Walking along the Gerliwany-gerring Banan trail out of the park, my heart stops at the sound of singing, clapsticks and didgeridoo. The hauntingly beautiful music echoes through Mirima, my spine tingles and once again I truly feel like I have been transported back in time. I am delighted to see an Indigenous tour company, Waringarri Aboriginal Arts sitting with their guests in the cool shade of the gorge, acknowledging their ancestors and welcoming their visitors to country. I pause to pay my respects before continuing the final leg home, smiling as I leave, honoured to briefly witness the connection to country this type of tour clearly offers.
I feel the warmth of the sun on my face softened by the cool dry season breeze, feeling now completely immersed in what I have seen, felt and heard in the past two hours spent at Mirima.