The Warlu Way weaves its mystical pathway across 2,500 km of remote and rugged landscapes through the Gascoyne, Pilbara and Kimberley regions.
(There are also several other side trips which could easily add another 1,000 km on to your journey).
The Warlu (pronounced Wah-loo) comes from the Aboriginal dreaming of a giant sea serpent – or Warlu – named Barrimirndi, who emerged from the sea at Coral Bay and meandered his way across the land, forming waterways as he went.
According to the legend, Barrimirndi had become angry with two boys who had cooked and eaten a Gurdarnkurdarn (Mulga parrot), and, following the smell of the singed feathers, he went in search of the boys. Travelling underground, the creature wove his way up the route of the Fortescue River, cutting gorges and rivers into the landscape.
Every now and then, Barrimirndi would break through the earth to the surface to check the scent of the trail, creating a waterhole, before disappearing back down below to continue his subterranean journey.
He reached his destination at Jirndawurrunha (Millstream), and coming up at Nhanggangunha (Deep Reach Pool), he discovered the boys.
Barrimirndi raised the boys up into a wananggaa (willy willy) where they were hit with flying sticks which broke their arms, leaving them useless. When they fell to the ground he swallowed them whole.
The local people wept and tried to pull the boys from the stomach of the serpent with sticks, but to no avail. Returning to their camp by the river bed, they wept some more. Angered by this, Barrimirndi rose and drowned them in a flood of water.
The legend goes that the spirit serpent still lurks in that same rock pool he created at Nhanggangunha, and the Yinjibarndi people believe you must approach it in the correct way or you will be harmed. Firstly, when entering the pool you must take a handful of water to your mouth, then spit it out and call out ‘nguru’ to let the serpent know of your presence and that you respect the land.
Traditional Yinjibarndi elders must do this first, to explain to the spirit who the strangers with them are, asking that they too are protected. The Yinjibarndi people also warn visitors not to stand so close that their shadow crosses the hole created by Barrimirndi - when he broke through the earth – for fear he might be disturbed and take them.
The Warlu Way is now an inspiring drive which takes you from Ningaloo’s most southern tip, through the breathtaking Karijini National Park, with its stunning gorges and rock pools, and onto the equally stunning Millstream-Chichester National Park.
The trail continues on to the Dampier Archipelago, and up to the Burrup Peninsular, where the world’s oldest and largest concentration of petro glyphs (ancient rock art) is to be found. It finishes its journey on the white sands of Broome – the gateway to the Kimberley.
Notes: Please note that some roads may need a permit before commencing your drive – check with the relevant Visitor Centre before setting off. Also, distances can vary depending on which route you take.
Last updated: 12 March 2018