Monday, 5 May 2014

Karijini National Park - Part 1

Karijini National Park 

Day one

It was the 1st of May 2014 that we set off from Newman to Karijini.  We had been excited about visiting for a long time and it was one of our must see places on our trip.  We thought we could be in Karijini for up to a week, there is so much to see.  Karijini is the second largest national park in WA and covers almost 628 000 hectares, it is in the Hamersley Ranges in the middle of the Pilbara. It has large mountains & escarpments rising out of its valleys, with beautiful gorges.  It is dominated by spinifex, eucalyptus & mulga, it only averages 250-350mm of rainfall a year.  

Having left Newman early we arrived at Dales Gorge campground at 10am.  We again encountered camp hosts, and there were two sets at this campground, having only started that morning, as they complete month long stints.  We were allocated to a campsite that looked pretty good on their map, large and away from other camps.  We paid for 5 nights which was $100 as it is $20 a night for 2 adults, just as we were walking out the door, the previous tenants of our site decided they wanted to stay an extra night, so after some confusion we were allocated a site of a similar size a bit further along. The campground had various loops, some for those for campers with generators, some for tour groups, we ended up in Kangaroo Loop on site 47.  We drove on down to our loop and saw our original site campsite 43 was a great site with plenty of room and with plenty of space between sites, as we went further along to 47 we were very disappointed. We had an okay sized site, but were right next to the pit toilet (smelly!), across from the communal BBQ area & in row of about 5 sites that were only separated by about 2 meters each and some wispy trees & to top it all off the ground was so hard we (Mat) bent 4 tent pegs trying to peg down the tent.  We had great plans of setting up our big awning as we were staying for so long, but the hard ground just made it impossible. We weren't particularly happy, as they had loops of the campground not even open, so we could of been spread out if they wanted too.  We had neighbours every night and our row of 5 sites were full every night.  The only positive was that they seemed to group similarly aged people together, so we got the backpackers, which was refreshing as they were very excited to be in such a beautiful location & enjoy the adventure, unlike some of the grey nomads we had previously shared a campsite with, that took great pleasure in whinging about everything (maybe that's where I got my whinging skills about our campsite from!!!!!).  In the end we decided to just suck it up & enjoy the fact we had made it to Karijini.

As we had arrived early, we had some lunch and then decided to tackle our first walk & gorge.  We decide to do the one closest to the campsite and left the car at camp and headed off.  We started with Fortescue Falls, the walk from camp was a little way, but it was good to warm up the muscles.  There was a lookout at the top of the gorge and it was spectacular!! 
Fortescue falls from the lookout

We made our way slowly down the steps towards the gorge, it was very very steep and large steps and rocks to negotiate, it was going to hurt on the way back up!   We finally made it to the bottom and it was amazing, the view was just gorgeous, the photos below do not do it justice! We had a look and took some photos, but it was packed with people, so we decided to continue along another couple of hundred meters to Fern Pool.  

Fortescue pool

The walk there was easy, and when we arrived we found a beautiful pool with a water fall with the bluest water, it too was busy, but not as crazy as the falls, so we decided to have a swim, luckily most of the tourists were so busy taking photos of flying foxes that we actually got the pool to ourselves to swim in for about 10 minutes or so.  We swam across from the ladder entry into the pool over to the waterfall, the little fish nibbling on us as we swam, and went under the waterfalls, they were actually pretty strong, but made a nice shoulder massage.  It was just lovely, it is a special place to indigenous people, and you could feel why, there was just something about it.  

Fern Pool

We reluctantly got out and dried off and headed back to Fortestcue Falls, the number of people had reduced and we just sat on the edge watching and taking it all in.  The other tourists swam & played, read books, the kids climbed the walls of the gorges like mountain goats putting us to shame & everyone just had a fantastic time.  Eventually it was time to endure the climb back to the top, it was hard going, but with some rest stops and by taking our time it wasn't actually too bad.  We walked back to camp & were very content as our first gorge had been even more than we imagined!

Some of the walk back out of the gorge

Day two

The next day we wanted to check out the visitor centre to get some more information on the other gorges in the park, but it didn't open until 9am & we were ready for our next adventure before then so we decided to have a look at Kalamina Gorge. The dirt roads in the park are pretty bad, they definitely haven't been graded this season yet & were rough with lots of corrugations & ruts, & you need to drive a long way between gorges & campsites. We were okay in Ruby she does well on that sort of road, but we had seen many little cars (a Yaris, Commodores & lots of wicked buses) so we thought it must of been pretty bad for them. There was plenty if evidence of this by the number of hub caps, shredded tyres & vehicle parts on the road, but our first real indication was a long line of oil splatters on the road on the way into Kalamina. As we arrived at the car park a very concerned French backpacker flagged us down asking for oil. We parked & came back to see if we could help. With a little translation from his girlfriend it turned out his sump plug had come out & he was actually a mechanic. He knew what he was doing but just wanted some reassurance & he fixed it the same way we would of, by trying to glue the plug back in place. We offered him some oil but it wasn't the right type, so he said he would wait for a friend with some. We said okay we will go down the gorge & when we come back we will check again with them to see if they needed it.

So off we went down Kalamina gorge, the track down on this one was still steep & lots of steps,  but was relatively short, so not to bad. When we reached the bottom we found a lovely waterhole again, with a small waterfall running into it from almost around the corner. You could also walk further down the gorge, which was really interesting to see the changes & walk along the edges. We were the only ones down in the gorge so we had the swimming holes to ourselves & we found a deep little pool for a swim. It was freezing! But we soon got used to it & it was very refreshing & we had it all to ourselves! After our swim we made our way back to the waterfall & had to do some interesting climbing (if only we knew what was to come in the next few days) to get around to the waterfall to take some photos. We did that & then also had a swim in the waterfall pool. It was then time to again make the climb out, we were still damp from our swim & that made the going a lot easier, it was probably one of the easier climbs out. We really loved Kalamina, apparently it isn't as popular as some of the other gorges, but in our opinion it was one of the best, may be because we had it nearly all to ourselves!

Kalamina pool

Kalamina waterfall

Kalamina gorge

We then went to the visitor centre on the way back to camp. It is really well done with lots of information on the indigenous & pastoral past of the park. It also had information on the flora & fauna in the park, definitely worth a visit. We then headed back to camp & had a quiet coupe of hours & went to bed early, worn out from our adventure. 

Day Three
The third day at Karijini turned out to be pretty epic. It was also our 6 year wedding anniversary! We woke early due to noisy neighbours, so got up & ready for the day. I would be lying to say my muscles weren't sore, they were!! I thought it would be my calf muscles, but it was my thighs, far out they were sore, the steps & climbing were going to hurt today & we had 2 gorges planned!! We set off from camp to do the Weano & Hancock Gorges, both close together, but on the other side of the park, so back across the corrugated dirt roads. We started with Weano, it had a few different parts to it & we did Upper Weano first, this took us along the edge of the gorge & we gradually made our way down into the gorge & we started to walk back up it. The track in was okay, again steep but gradual, once we reached the gorge floor it had a lot more vegetation & only little pools of water & just a trickle of water. 

Upper Weano track in

We then reached the Lower Weano track intersection, we would continue on through the gorge to Handrail Pool, but would need to come back to the intersection to climb back out of the gorge. The main pool at Weano gorge was big with small waterfall surrounded by lots of trees. We continued along the track towards Handrail Pool & came to a big pool of water blocking the path, it was unsafe to climb the rocks around it, so we had no choice but to wade through, Mat went first to check the depth & it was over waist deep, he carefully carried the backpack across above his head, I was sure he was going to slip & drop it into the water at every step!! 

Weano gorge main pool

The pool of water we waded through

We made it across & kept heading towards Handrail pool, we were a bit anxious as this is where the trail went to a class 5 (the hardest) it did get harder as scrambled & climbed our way over rocks & through pools of water, but it was just so beautiful it didn't seem to bad, the pool of water we had just swam through deterred a lot of other walkers, so we had it mainly to ourselves, except for some adventurous backpackers. The gorge narrowed & we found ourselves walking through almost a tunnel between the gorge edges, we made it to handrail pool, it was stunning, the last bit into the pool has had a handrail installed to help people get in & out but it was a pretty much vertical drop into the water. I didn't think I would be able to pull myself back up, so we didn't go swimming, but we felt mighty proud we made it to the pool. We started to head back up the gorge to the intersection to climb back out, the climb was again tough & my legs were hurting, but it think you are on so much of a high that it doesn't seem that bad. 

Handrail pool

We used the day use area to make some toasties for lunch & had a bit of a rest before we tackled Hancock Gorge. The climb down was definitely the hardest we had completed, it was very steep with big steps & 2 ladders as well, it was a relief to get to the bottom.

Walking track & ladders down to Hancock gorge

 Hancock gorge was full of big waterholes & they were deep. The first big one was pretty early in the walk & was very deep. Unfortunately we had to leave the camera & our backpack at the edge & swim across, it was just to deep to carry them. 

After the water hole we negotiated spiders trailer an even skinnier tunnel between the two gorge walls that was downhill with rushing water, it was pretty scary but manageable & we then made it to Kermits pool. It was a plunge pool  in the narrow gorges & whilst beautiful, it was more the accomplishment of getting to it, that was exciting. But in all the excitement you then realise you still need to get all the way back out again!! We made it back safely, it was a long & tiring walk/climb, but definitely worth it. 

I don't think either of use had slept as well that night as we did then, we were exhausted but really proud of ourselves. We cooked up our gold plated lamb chops (see our Kalgoorlie post) & even had our saved bottle of reisling wine for the Clare Valley for our anniversary dinner, this was one anniversary we wouldn't forget!

We also stopped at the Karijini Eco Retreat on the way back to camp. This is the other option for camping in the national park. The sites were okay, with showers & toilets but were double the price at $40 a night. It would mean less driving to stay at the retreat, as it is closer to 5 of the gorges, but we think Dales campground is better value. 

Eco Retreat campsites 

We arrived back at camp, once again exhausted & excited about what we had seen & what was in store the next day (once again if only we knew!!). 

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