Karijini National Park

Unbeknownst to us we had managed to time our visit to Karijini National Park with the WA Foundation Day long weekend and the park was going to be full (oops!). Arriving on the Firday night we were able to get a site at Karijini Eco Retreat and Savannah Camp Ground, but at $30 per night for unpowered patch of dirt it’s quite pricey! Still it was located near some of the main gorges so we took it. That afternoon we walked to Joffre Gorge and descended into the base of it. It was our first taste of the gorges and we were hooked! Waterfalls at one end, pool in the middle and a narrow waterfall which drops into what they call Olympic Pool, which is a very long stretch of deep water that you could do laps in if you wanted. We met a nice German couple who would be our buddies for the next few days.

Overnight in Karijini was freezing – literally! When we checked in the lady told us it had been -1 the previous night and to rug up. We slept in sleeping bags and with usual doona on top and were nice and toasty but our faces froze! This kind of cold at night threw us as it was still 26 degrees during the day! We also had some dingoes come to visit over night, howling to the bright moon and padding around the campsite seeing what scraps they could find. We were certainly happy to be up in the rooftop tent!

Next day we set out to explore the local gorges, Hancock was first up. We decended the steep rocky slopes, clambered our way down rock ledges and ladders and then followed the watercourse through pools and waterfalls to Kermit’s Pool. It is simply stunning, there really is no way to describe how magnificent this place is. We were well prepared with our wetsuit booties and had the camera in the watertight kayaking bag. We spent the best part of an hour taking in the scenery and shooting photographs of this magic place.

Hancock Gorge, Karijini NP

Feeling totally buoyed from Hancock we were keen to get into Weano Gorge. We bolted down a sandwich and set off to do Weano, heading for handrail pool and beyond. This one was a lot wetter and luckily we had the watertight bag again, by now we’d ditched shirts and everything else and were pretty much in action mode. Swimming through the water made it a lot quicker and easier to get through rather than trying to scale the walls. But the water was near freezing, so cold it took your breath away and left your limbs numb. It’s like an awesome adventure park and we felt very Bear Grylls doing this gorge. We got right to the end of the Class 5, everything beyond here is Class 6 and requires abseiling gear and a permit, although we did see a couple of dodgy people come back up the gorge from down that way. Further up one of the guys took a wrong step when back near us and ended up falling down the wall and into the water. Lucky he didn’t do that further down in the Class 6 section!

On our way out we saw the same nice German couple getting ready to do the gorge. We told them it was much wetter, he’s a professional photographer and was thinking of holding the camera on his head! No chance in this gorge, so offered to lend them our waterproof bag. They were staying at Savannah so we were happy to get it off them later and we headed off for a warm shower. Being an Eco retreat the showers are solar but the hot water runs out by the afternoon, so we just managed to sneak one in!

The next day we explored the other end of the park which has Knox and Dales Gorge. We got to Knox early and the sign said 2km, 3 hour round trip but we were hoping that it wouldn’t take that long! The track was very steep and the gorge seemed deeper than the other ones. Dave found a small mouse on the rocks that looked in bad shape. He picked it up and it snuggled into his hands and seemed very cold so he put it in the sun on a little ledge near a cave section so it could get shelter if needed. Hopefully it would be okay… This gorge had more pools and was slightly more open than the others but fun nonetheless. We worked our way back along and up out of the gorge in just over an hour. Not bad going, even with my little chicken legs :-)

We checked out the visitors centre which is set up nicely and told the history of the area. From there we headed down to Dales to see about a nights accommodation but there was a queue (public holiday weekend) so we decided to finish the gorges and head out of the park. We climbed down to Fortesque Falls and there were heaps of people there! I guess because it was a long weekend and it was only class 3 it was fairly accessible. We wandered along to Fern Pool which everyone had been raving about. It looked nice for a swim but we weren’t warm enough for that. Definitely our favorite gorges were the Hancock and Weano, after that everything else just pales in comparison.

We headed out of the park to find Mt Robinson 24hr roadside rest area. It was heading the wrong direction but it was free, plus it was called Mt Robinson so how could we not? We pulled in and it was quite nice, set back from the road and with only a couple of cars there it looked good. We met some friendly locals who invited us over for a beer around their fire. They were from Tom Price and had been visiting their son in Newman (all work around here revolves around the mines). They were really chatty and another couple came over so we had a group bonding session and sunk a few beers with them. They also told us about an unmarked gorge behind this rest area. We took a walk up there the next day and it was pretty cool. It seemed endless, every time we thought we’d found the end it just switched back on itself and continued. It made us realise how many more of these unmarked gorges there must be around the area.

The thing that struck us most about the Pilbara was just how pretty it was. We were expecting lots of mining, and of course there is, but there is so much more that makes up this region. The landscape is stunning beautiful, red rocky mountains jut up from every direction, each covered in yellow spinifex giving them a softer, more fluid appearance. Sunsets here are as dramatic as they come, where red rocks glow like hot coals in the fading light. The water that continues to carve up the landscape has produced some of natures finest jewels. There is no doubt that this ancient landscape will hold a special place in our hearts and we can only encourage all of you to come see its beauty for yourself.

For more photos of this area click here

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