Butterfly Falls and Western Lost City August 4 - 5 2021
  An early start. Our plan is to at least reach the Nathan River Ranger Station then Butterfly Falls to camp.

We would decide later whether we had time to drive into Western Lost City.

  Highway One is reasonable. We tootle along around 60km/hr.
  Slowing only to decide if the ore hauling road train, on its own private haul road, had right of way.

The signs made the crossing a tad confusing. The no entry sign just behind the up arrow with "only" really belonged on the haul road, not facing us. Faced with such ambiguity I stopped.

It stopped. We stopped. We moved. Straight ahead. It remained stopped.

There's a sealed about 100km haul road from mine to the Bing Bong Creek Port Facility, through the national park and across Lorella Springs. A bit of controversy, it was almost complete before approval given.

Originally Western Desert Resources, they went into liquidation a few years ago. Currently a subsidiary of UK parent recovering low grade iron ore.

I suspect ultimately a bit marginal.

  We crossed the Limmen Bight River. A large lagoon, but little flow across the causeway.
  And thence to the Ranger Station.

Information about the park, the area, the history of exploration and cattle stations.

And the all important combination for the padlocked entry gate to Western Lost City.

By chance the Ranger is present. Some useful info about the track and the park.

  We decide to camp at Butterfly Falls rather than rush in and out of the City like some rabid commuter.

Its past lunch time and the drive is at least 2 hours each way.

The falls are pleasant. Little flow. We decide against a swim.

The campground becomes full late in the afternoon but doesn't feel crowded.

An hour or so walking along the creek bed looking (successfully) for birds.

  Up at the crack of dawn. Rocks look better in early morning and late evening light.

North from the campsite, retracing our steps for a few km, to the track entrance.

  The track is rough. If it isn't stones its dried cattle hoofprints.

And windy.

  And trees close to the track.

This innocuous looking one proved interesting. James the Ranger mentioned it as needing attention by the landcruisers.

Not easily seen, the left wheel rut is higher than the right, and there's hard sand forming a wall on the left before descending to cross a small creek.

The front wheels must be turned to avoid the sand wall before the rear wheels have passed the tree.

Our height means the top of the truck will be pushed into the tree.

Careful alignment, low range 1st gear, we crawl past on the second attempt. Just kissing the tree.

The return is much easier, the front wheels could be held straight until the rear had passed the tree, though nevertheless just kissing again.

  Rough includes the creek crossings. Not many, just enough to slow us.
  The clear billabong. A little bird life.

There is a string of billabongs, murky ones disturbed by animals, from here south, alongside the track.

  Low branches easily brushed aside. A couple of short detours where others have had problems.

The track is just a little stony. A bit of a ridge between creeks. No longer on the black soil plain.

  And then, after nearly 2 hours, the city limits.
  Just as the track notes (thankyou Rangers) said, the structures are taller the further into the city we drive.
  Various shapes emerge.
  With varying colours.
  An arch at the turnaround area.

The pic taken from within a giant couldron.

  Not quite big enough to drive through.

Though someone has probably tried.

  Concave, and convex.
  Pillars and domes and cupolas.
  A fallen pillar.

Like something out of Easter Island.

Half covered by sand.

What was sand, that became sandstone, erodes to sand again, in a never ending cycle, over billions of years.

  While remaining pillars look down on their fallen comrade.

Leaning a bit.

  A gap in the formations allows us a look at the other side.

Like being back stage at a performance. Or looking down on the suburbs from a business district.

We form an impression of valleys surrounded by rounded hills, some of which have eroded to form lost cities.

  Beyond the turn round area is the old turn round area and the giant amphitheatre I could see in satellite images.

This stands like a northern sentinel to the wide entrance.

  The next valley extends through gaps between the hills.

Its as if our track has followed a valley into an end.

  There's more than one arch.

We are not usually given to flights of fancy. Our imaginations don't seem to work that way.

But we can't help seeing camels. One standing. One sitting, as if waiting for a passenger to take on some magical mystery tour.

  Couldn't resist the dusky honeyeaters. A whole flock. We've seen some previously, near Darwin, but this flock more or less ignored us.

But then again. They don't behave like honeyeaters. More like flycatchers. And their wings are similar shape to bee-eaters. They even return to the same spot after a bit of flycatching.

They are the same as we saw at Malaplains near Darwin. We mis-identified them there.

Back to the bird book ...

  We can't help but attempt comparison with other karst landscapes we've visited.

We see tall thin pillars rather than short fat domes.

The horizontal bands are not as pronounced as domes in the bungles.

  We understand (we think) the crust that limits erosion in some places and softer rock that erodes more easily.

We guess, for that is all we really do, that the cupola formed with successive layers of differing hardness.

  Too many pics.

We find the area fascinating.

  The wall is impenetrable (to us).

Giant guardians, huddled together.

  Our newly unfettered imaginations turn to thoughts of aliens.

We've watched too many Doctor Who episodes.

  We see darker red in the foreground giving way to lighter rock higher up.

The science suggests the formations are created by water dissolving the matrix of silica that holds quartz grains together as sandstone. It dissolves as it flows down the cracks caused by deformation from below.

As well as silica the water dissolves iron, perhaps manganese, perhaps other, minerals. Leached from the top levels, leaving them lighter, the minerals are precipitated in lower layers where temperature and pressure are different, leaving them darker.

  Fascinated by the not quite so horizontal bands, the land has been tilted, as if we are at the rim of the large dome that is the whole area, we also see more vertical faults that haven't been eroded as part of the pillar, but later allow the rock to cleave, like a failed superglue join.
  We imagine a poorly fitting, small, door.
  "Open Sesame" didn't open it. Neither did "Speak Friend and Enter". Though neither of us speak Elvish.

We surrendered to the inevitable. After a cup of coffee we planned our escape.

  The landscape so overwhelming I was inclined (pun intended) to align the camera with the pillars. However, aligning it with the ground, while looking odd, leaves an impression of a city falling over.
  Away from the base of the impenetrable wall we see small, isolated, domes.

Remnants of how the erosion works its way from the surrounds, at the edges, towards the core of the big rounded hill.

In other places we would simply see cliffs, escarpment, and waterfalls.

Here, nature took a different course.

  The track notes mentioned stromatolites in one of the river beds.

We remembered to look on the way out.

And there they are.

Very clear. Though upside down.

  There are two rocks near the little tree in the centre. They have the most obvious stromatolites.

The track crosses the creek just beyond the tree.

We walk a little upstream in the dry creek bed. The rocks had to come from somewhere.

But alas. After two hours driving in, and nearly another two driving out, we have little energy remaining for further exploration.

As well as stromatolites the rock in the creek beds is different to the general sandstone. Perhaps worn through to whatever pushed the landscape up.

Southern Lost City August 5 - 6 2021

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