On day 4 it was time to complete Knox Gorge & Joffre Falls, both back over on the other side of the park so we hit the bumpy dirt roads again. We started first with Knox gorge & began the short walk to the lookout to warm up. Wow, again! It was an amazingly deep gorge with big red sides & pools of water in the bottom, it looked great, so after a couple of photos it was time to tackle the walk.
We checked the walking track sign board that gives you some information & it said it was a class 5, we thought it was only a class 4 in the brochure, oh well we thought we would give it ago. As soon as we started we knew it was going to be hard, the steps were less defined & very shaley with lots of little pieces of broken rock on each step making the going very tough as you could easily slip at any moment. The track was steep, very steep & wound its way into the gorge very quickly. All I could think was this is going to really hurt on the way back up. As we got closer to the bottom we were climbing more than walking. Mat was in the lead & when I saw him hesitate along the track I knew something must of been wrong. It turns out we were about 95% of the way to the bottom & the last piece was a completely vertical drop. I felt sick in the stomach just looking at it. We tried to find a way around & down that was easier but no luck. That's when we had to make the call, could we get back up if we went down?? In the end we decided it wasn't worth the risk.
To say we were devastated was an understatement, we could see the cool inviting water just below us. I can tell you the walk back up was the hardest we had completed, yes it was a tough climb because of the steepness & broken rocks everywhere, but just the disappointment of not getting to the bottom & not getting a swim & look around, made it hard to get motivated to climb back out, but what choice did we have?
So up we went, when we made it to the top we both just felt really flat. Oh well, we still had Joffre a Falls & it sounded amazing.
So back in the car to drive the short distance back to Joffre Falls, this time we decided to do the lookout on the way back out, so we set off into the gorge. The start of the track was pretty east & you actually skirt along the top of the falls themselves, there wasn't much water running down so we wondered how good the falls would be. As we now made our way along the gorge top on the opposite side the walk was lovely, we eventually came to a spot that looked like it was about to take us into the gorge itself. So we started dropping down into the gorge, there were steps & rocks to climb down but it wasn't to bad, we felt a bit more confident then. Until we reached a spot of the track that was again a pretty vertical drop off, we managed to find a way down that wasn't to bad, but then again we were stopped by a pretty serious drop off, we had made it about 90% of the way this time! far out!!
We could see backpackers down in the gorge, so it was obviously doable, but it was classified as class 5 again, and it didn't feel safe to us. May be if you had abseiling gear!!!! So once again we didn't get our swim or get to the bottom. But we had got far enough down to enjoy the scenery of the waterfall that didn't have a lot of water running over it, but enough to look nice, & the most green pool of water we had ever seen, it was the colour of green cordial, very cool.
We took some photos & again we had to turn around & climb our way back out. At least this time it was a nicer climb back up & a bit easier going. We made it back up to the top & got some more photos from the lookout. Both gorges were amazing, but we still felt disappointed & we dejectedly made our way back to camp.
The next day we decided to go to Hamersley Gorge, it was a long drive as it is on the western edge of the park. We decided to make a day of it & go into Tom Price a mining town for some supplies (it has a Coles!) & fuel, go up to Hamersley Gorge & then continue around the top outskirts of the park & back to camp. On the way across to Tom Price you drive alongside a large portion of the Hamersley Ranges & right past Mount Bruce the second tallest peak in WA, & he was a beauty!! Tom Price was as we expected, a typical mining town, so we did what we had to in town & kept going.
It wasn't long before we drove into Hamersley Gorge, there are a number of lookouts & it is again spectacular. The walk in has lots of steps, but it was the most built up trail of any of the gorges with proper steps cut into the gorge. There had been a little rain overnight and one swimming hole was a beautiful green blue & the other was red from the dirt & rain. As we hadn't been able to swim the day before we soon jumped in the water. It was cool, but nice & we swam in both pools. The dirty pool had a large section through the gorge for about 150 meters that we swam through to find another swimming hole. Hamersley is full of beautiful coloured rock, shaped in all different patterns & was a lot different to any of the other gorges we had seen. It is a long way from the other gorges in the park, but definitely worth the drive.
We were soon on the road again heading across the top of Karijini. Up ahead we saw a hired troopy pulled over & stopped to ask if they were okay. An older German couple greeted us telling us they had put unleaded in the fuel tank instead of diesel, oh no!! Luckily they still had phone reception & were waiting for a truck to come & pick them & the troopy up, so not anything we could do for them so we kept going. The track along the top of Karijini takes you through the town of Wittenoom, the town were they mined asbestos for years, that attributed to many deaths of the mine workers & townspeople. We had picked up a flyer at an information centre about it telling us about the history & the current risks. Apparently a lot of the buildings & houses have been demolished & it's supposedly abandoned. As we drove past (we didn't go in) you could see an old servo still standing with a kangaroo hoping around out the front, as we drove along further there were still houses on the side of the road, some with cars near them & washing on the line, so I guess some people chose not to leave. It was a very eerie place & we were glad to leave it behind us. Just down the road we came to another car pulled over. This time 2 young couples that had been camped beside us at the campground for a couple of nights. They had a flat tyre about 5km from the start of the bitumen, poor buggers, again they were okay & we kept going towards Munjina roadhouse. Just after we passed by the roadhouse the heavens opened up & it started to rain heavily. We were pretty happy for it to wash some of the dust off the car. It rained steadily all the way back to just before the campground & when we arrived they hadn't had any at camp. We decided to put the car awning up just in case, we are glad we did as it rained for most of the night.
We had decided to extend our stay at Karijini for another night as we still had Circular Pool at Dales Gorge to complete. It was still raining in the morning so we decided to have a quiet morning at camp & see if it cleared in the afternnon, it didn't, so we had a very lazy day of reading & not much which was lovely.
It was pack up day & it was a wet one again! We decided to pack up early & do the Circular Pool walk before we left. After the rain it was really muggy & as we walked down into the gorge we were sweating & it was only 9am. It was an interesting walk down, one of the harder ones, with a ladder as well that wasn't mentioned in the walking notes. Once you get to the bottom, you turn left & walk your way along the gorge floor. There are lots of little waterfalls & pools on the way that are beautiful, but when you reach Circular Pool it takes your breath away, it is stunning!! We definitely left the best until last. We jumped in the water pretty quickly to take advantage of having the place to ourselves & also it was pretty hot. The water was lovely. There is just something about this place, you have to see it for yourselves to really appreciate the feeling you get. We stayed for as long as we could but eventually we had to go, to keep heading north.
Karijini was an extremely special place & we loved it. Surely some of the best gorges in Australia, but we will see I guess as we travel further. Our advice is to visit this amazing place if you get the chance, don't leave it until you are older, anyone can do most of the gorges, but it is hard walking & climbing. Take your time too. We had so many people at the campground only stay for 1-2 nights, they can't have possibly of seen it all. The camping isn't great, but the gorges well & truly make up for it.
So the challenge is set down to the rest of WA, can it top Karijini??? We would love to hear any comments about any challengers that we should see!!