WE ARE HERE
Let us prelude this story by confessing. Nothing we say or show you here will ever do justice to the wonder of Karijini National Park. You’ve just gotta come see it for yourself. Then you can fumble for the words to convey its awesomeness just like we are about to do for you…
Previously known as Hamersley Range National Park when explorer Francis T. Gregory visited in 1861, he named the ranges after one of the expedition bankrollers, Edward Hamersley. The park was officially reunited with the name Karijini in 1991, as it had been known to one of the traditional clans, the Banyjima. Before entering the national park we arrived in Tom Price west of the park. Here we saw our first example of how traditional owners culture had been unrecognised and overwhelmed by ignorant colonisation; Mt Nameless. You can hike or drive to the summit, and we decided to drive, with Tvan in tow, up the steep rocky incline to the summit for sunset. At 1128m tall, what Aboriginals once knew as Jarndunmunha was named Mt Nameless in the 1960’s by mining surveyors. The sunset layered sky was contrasted by levels of terraced earth and lights of the mining industry that is so prominent in this area surrounding the National Park.
Everyone we’d meet on our Ausventure so far had put Karijini at the top of the list to visit, so we were super excited to see if it had the goods. Well, day one and we were already in love. If Karijini could be this good at first glance, how on earth could it continue to impress us over the next few days!? First stop of Karijini was Joffre Gorge. From the lookout we spied the rock wall where Joffre Falls run. It’s been a little light on rain here for a while, so there wasn’t much flow, but we could see water down in the gorge and we were gonna go find it!
Heading down into the unknown, we stretched our legs to reach down the unruly staircase of rusty iron ore rich slabs of rock. Winding into the chasm we found the opening to hidden paradise and the cool cool waters of Joffre Gorge. Scrambling along the walls and swimming through the ice waters you look up to see the blue sky encapsulated by the red stacked walls of the gorge, and you realise everything people told you about Karijini was only just the beginning.
How many gorges until you’re all gorged out? A lot! Especially when each gorge has something unique to see and do. Weano and Handcock Gorges were on the schedule for our second day in Karijini, and up against some already incredibly tough competition from day one. The waters were still icy cold (actually, even colder than Joffre!) but the fun and adventures were in a whole different league.
These gorges have the full house hand of poker cards when it comes to Karijini. In Weano Gorge you’ll twist and turn through corners and streams til you find yourself in Handrail Pool. While over in Handcock Gorge, after crawling into what people call the ‘centre of the earth’, you’ll be greeted with the ‘Spider Walk’. Here you creep your way, hands and feet, through a slender chasm into Kermit’s Pool, the coolest place in Karijini… literally! This little swimming hole is so cold you’ve got to be careful not to get hypothermia. But at the right time of day, the rocks surrounding the pool are lit up by that Pilbara sun, and the perfect spot to lay like a lizard, and get that blood flowing again.
Mt Bruce hike
Ok, so now wondering how Joffre, Handcock and Weano gorge-ousness could be matched, we were provided with Bruce. Mount Bruce. And holy jam! This was a real highlight of Karijini. A 10km hike over 6 hours this was a good chance to stop ourselves from ‘gorg’ing out; variety is the spice of life! We were blasted by some fairly strong winds, scrambled over boulders and did some pseudo rock climbing. The summit seemed to always be just that little bit further over the horizon than you think, but when you get there, AHHHH-MEN!! The colours of earth that surround you are 360 degrees of incredible. From the open plains, spinifex covered hills, huge mining machinery operations and big dusty red rocks. Soak it in, cause you’ve earned it baby!
Keep ‘em coming!
Yep, more gorges please! After a day away from exploring the gorges, we were ready to soak our weary muscles in the cool waters of Knox Gorge. Here we could choose from an array of different coloured pools, from deep dark reflections, to a vibrant green soaked pool, to the mystical blue of waters encased by creeping roots of rock figs and the dangling faces of flying foxes. Honestly, you’d imagine we would be over them by now, but around each corner, every new spot, all the pools were unique. It is a wonderland.
The Pilbara has enjoyed over 350 days of sunshine for the past year, but this day was not one of them. The broody clouds made for a stunning sunrise though, and that seemed like a pretty good trade off for us. Karijini’s Visitor Centre located west of Dales Campground is not only a pretty cool building, seeming to emerge out of the dark earth and spinifex tufts, but inside is a whirl of history, information and facts that will stun, amaze and intrigue you.
Back to the gorges, and we had the trifecta of sights to see along Dales Gorge; Circular Pool, Fortescue Falls and Fern Pool. Trekking down into the valley we became enraptured by lush green as we reached the crescent waterfall of Circular pool. These places hold special significance to the traditional owners, and are places of peace and tranquility, which this place radiated. Hiking further along the gorge we reached the cascading waterfall steps of Fortescue Falls, just before a fairy tale ending at Fern Pool. Fern pool is the warmest of all Karijini waterholes, and although still quite fresh, after dipping at least our toes in all other swim spots, here was absolutely the sweetest. Fish nibbled your toes as you lower into the pool, with Corella’s perched on the over hanging branch as you glide towards the magical fern laden waterfall.
The top of WA
Ducking out the east of the park to re-enter south of the mining railway that splits the park in two, we were on our way to Western Australia’s highest peak! Mt Meharry, standing at 1248m tall.
This was one of the moments when you understand the meaning of ‘its about the journey, not the destination’. Don’t get us wrong, the views were pretty awesome, but the climb up was definitely the fun bit! We take the Jeep and Tvan everywhere. We’re never worried that we can’t make it, even passing signs stating ‘caravans and trailers not recommended’. It’s a Tvan, this is what it lives for! So our van is almost always right behind us on all our adventures. We wriggled our way along winding dirt tracks and got right to the pointy end of things towards the summit before we decided to unhitch, leave the van and save some petrol, and go rock climbing with the Jeep! It was gnarly! There were some big rock steps to get up and back down again, but it was bloody fun!
We’d asked a few people about a 4WD track we’d seen on maps, running through the southern half of Karijini National Park. No one really seemed to know too much about it, from rangers to information centre hosts. So it was up to us to search and discover for ourselves. We were nearing the bottom of our fuel tanks but calculated we’d have enough to make it back into town to fill up… as long as there weren’t too many detours and the track was reasonable.
There are so many different tracks criss crossing, leading to signs of ‘no entry’, ‘private property’, ‘trespassers shot on sight!’. We’d almost exhausted our searching and fuel tanks. Feeling disheartened at coming so close but not being able to find this track, we were at the point of having to return via the main drag back to town, missing out on an adventure we’d been so intrigued to find. Then BINGO BANGO! There was the track! We’d decided to try one last option, and it turned out to be the winner. Spending a night in here, stars bright as bright can be, open space of the quiet night and campfire, all just for us. It was bliss.
Our final day exploring Karijini.
One last gorge, one last swim, one last mountain… One hundred more photos (seriously it’s so hard to stop here!). Hamersley Gorge is situated in the north-west corner of the park, so can sometimes be a little quieter than the gorges along the main road through the centre of Karijini. But it can still pull a crowd, and we can see why. At Hamersley Gorge is the famous Spa Pool. The staircase of pools leading up to the Spa Pool progressively get warmer and warmer, til you reach the Spa with water cascading into its private chasm. When we say ‘warm’, that means ‘Karijini warm’, not quite the sauna the word ‘spa’ conjures in your mind.
After our last dip in Karijini National Park, we drove to our final mountain peak, Mt Sheila. Driving all the way to the top, the sun was starting to sink in the sky and on our Ausventures in Karijini. We got a campfire going, took a deep breath and sat back with our cups overflowing with gratitude that we’re out hear doing this and seeing these amazing places.
Hopefully you’ll get out here soon too.
Go on. Do it.
You deserve it.
Our next blog will be from: Beautiful Broome
Until our next update - see you on / off the road 😉
Cassie and Micky